The Open Document Format, published November 2006, aimed to make complex documents more future proof. Most competing document formats were non standardized, complex, binary formats which would make their contents hard or impossible to read in contemporary applications a decade or two in the future. An open standard is a big step towards preserving data for future use. Another advantage is that it reduces the costs of switching between different applications, giving users more choice in the tools they use to process documents on and off line.
Google recently announced that they would start to support ODF in Google Drive, bringing those benefits to their users and customers. As Simon Phipps pointed out on Infoworld, Google still has work to do as currently change tracking, annotations and other meta data will get lost, showing that for both Google and Microsoft, “ODF is seen as a migration format rather than as a working format”. He also points out that these changes might come by “because there’s no doubt official interest in ODF around the world is growing”.
No matter how much of a work in progress it still is or the motivations, we’re glad that Google Drive joins ownCloud in the ranks of cloud technologies supporting open file formats. Wider adoption of ODF benefits open source and the software industry in general. A well-defined standard is easier to support in a wider range of software, ultimately benefiting users by decreasing their reliance on any single tool chain or network connectivity.
Of course, only open source software allows all stakeholders to move the needle and influence the direction of software development! For those interested in pushing forward the state of technology related to collaborative editing, our Documents app team is always looking for skilled contributors who want to help improve this collaborative writing application!