DCLG to address open source obstacles

The Department for Communities and Local Government is to carry out more work on a solution after identifying problems converting Excel documents in open source format.

The department today released its implementation plan for the publication of documents across central and local government in open formats.

From this week, it has promised to publish PDFs and Word documents in PDF/A and ODS formats respectively.

However, on Excel, which are most commonly published as “live” data tables, it said: “Content producers should convert to ODS format before submitting to digital content teams.

“However the statisticians have identified problems with certain spreadsheets – where drop-down filters fail to work when converted – more work needs to be done on finding a solution to this problem and DCLG will to commit to the spreadsheets where possible will be published from 1 November 2014 being in an ODS format.”

DCLG said that it is committed to opening up government and providing a level playing field for open source systems, providing the citizen with free access to government information.

Data which will be excluded from the plans include mini-applications including business applications, calculators, financial models and smart forms.

It said: “Files created by analysts are likely to fall outside the scope of the mandate depending on the business requirement.”

Other exclusions include tabular data that can be used by systems to deliver other services, web pages and complex structured data (such as those in formats such as XML, JSON, and RDF).

A second phase of delivery beginning in March will address a number of challenges to the publication of data.

In addition to the spreadsheet issue, the department said that some documents created using Microsoft Office may not render in the same way in applications that support Open Document Format.

Also, the current version of Microsoft Office only supports the ODF 1.1 standard, and not all applications support the use of ODF formatted documents.

The use of ODF needs to be integrated into business applications, the department added.

A third phase, planned for July, will attempt to embed solutions to the issues within government systems.

This could include a move to Microsoft Office 2013 to meet ODF 1.2 standard and the packaging of Libre Office or a similar system to allow the manipulation of ODF documents.

Colin Marrs

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