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Norway Mandates Government Use of ODF and PDF 187

Posted by Zonk
from the playing-nice-with-everyone dept.
siDDis writes "Earlier this year Slashdot mentioned that Norway was moving towards mandatory use of ODF and PDF. Now it's official: the Norwegian government has mandated the use of open document formats from January 1st, 2009. There are three formats that have been mandated for all documentation between authorities, users and partners. HTML for all public information on the Web, PDF for all documents where layout needs to be preserved and ODF for all documents that the recipient is supposed to be able to edit. Documents may also be published in other formats, but they must always be available in either ODF or PDF."
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Norway Mandates Government Use of ODF and PDF

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  • well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:36PM (#21787740)
    When you really think about it, how stupid would it be if a large government agency even in the US sent out a "document meant for editing" in a microsoft office format. I mean seriously. If the IRS sent me a tax form as a .doc file I would call them up and tell em what I thought of that but probably wouldn't get through cuz it'd already be flooded with pissed off people. I mean, that's like requiring all US citizens to own a copy of Office. Same with Norway. Any country that doesn't choose a non-propietary format is crazy.
    • Re:well duh (Score:4, Informative)

      by deniable (76198) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @12:46AM (#21788106)
      That would be like the Australian Tax Office requiring IE for some business reporting. The standard response is that you can do it or be fined. At least they've fixed the need for specific versions of the JVM.

      This was a few years back, but maybe they've changed. Then again, it's the tax office.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DavidD_CA (750156)
      Couldn't they just argue that since Open Office will open/edit/save as a Word document that your argument is invalid?
  • Geez (Score:2, Funny)

    Not to karma whore or anything... but the least you think an editor would do is provide the bokmal translation. This proves it... Slashdot hates Norwegian people. Again, not to karma whore:

    " enhver burde ha likeverdig adgang å offentligheten beskjed : Åpen standarder bli tvangsmessig innen regjeringen. " regjeringen har bestemte det alle beskjed opp på regjeringen websites burde være anvendelig i fri luft formatter HTML PDF eller ODF. Med dette bestemmelse tidene når offentlighete
    • unnecessary (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597)
      Basically everyone under 40 in Scandinavia speaks good english. Better english than many Americans, in fact.
      • But do they have senses of humor and can understand when their culture is actually the point of the post, but instead just a detail in a parody of a very common practice on slashdot.

        I think so. Gotta a friend from Stavanger. He's an ok guy and pretty sharp, apparently sharper and a little more lighthearted than /. mods.
      • But do they have senses of humor and are they able to understand when their culture isn't actually the point of the post, but instead just a detail in a parody of a very common practice on slashdot. I think so. Gotta a friend from Stavanger. He's an ok guy and pretty sharp, apparently sharper and a little more lighthearted than /. mods.

        Spot on about speaking better english than Americans though. My first reply is proof positive.
      • Svengelska (Score:4, Funny)

        by Dr. Cody (554864) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:43AM (#21789414)
        Scandinavians are so selfsure about the quality of their english that they'll insist that your rightings aren't valid, as you merely speak american. I've been living in Sweden in some years and feel again the most common swinglishsigns. I job now as an oversitter from swedish to english, in addition to controlling english texts, and it has been a good affair.
        • by Ash-Fox (726320)
          Bork bork bork bork bork bork bork bork!

          (Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition. Comment aborted.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Joke or no, but "Translated by hand"?

      By someone who doesn't know Norwegian, or?

      That's a machine translation. The words are unusual (to say the least) and the grammar is wrong.. e.g. "åpen standarder" should read "åpne standarder". "har bestemte det" should read "har bestemt at", etc.
    • Re:Geez (Score:5, Funny)

      by The One and Only (691315) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @12:47AM (#21788118) Homepage

      " enhver burde ha likeverdig adgang å offentligheten beskjed : Åpen standarder bli tvangsmessig innen regjeringen. " regjeringen har bestemte det alle beskjed opp på regjeringen websites burde være anvendelig i fri luft formatter HTML PDF eller ODF. Med dette bestemmelse tidene når offentligheten dokumenter der hvor bare anvendelig inne Microsoft's Ord - formatter kommer å slutt. 'Everybody burde ha likeverdig adgang å offentligheten beskjed. Fra 2009 det borger ville være i stand til valgte hvilke programvare å bruk for at få innpass å offentligheten beskjed. Det regjeringen bestemmelse ville likeledes gjøre bedre konkurransen imellom leverandør av kontor søknadene sier DEN - minister Heidi Praktfull Røys. " denne er avgjørelsen av regjeringen : HTML burde være det primære formatter for forlagsartikkel av offentligheten beskjed på Sykehuslege. PDF (1.4 eller nyere , eller PDF / EN ISO 19005-1) er tvangsmessig når du ønske å gjemme originalen layout av en dokumentet. ODF ISO IEC 26300) må av sted anvendt når utgiveren dokumenter det er mente å bli forandret etter dataoverfører eg. blankett det er å bli fylte inne av brukeren. "- Norge Ministerium av Regjeringen Administrasjon og Forbedring "
      What!? How dare you! My mother is a saint!
    • by Bruce Perens (3872) *
      The circular [regjeringen.no]. I think this is missing some details that were recommended (like don't encrypt your postscript) that may appear elsewhere.
  • by Entropius (188861) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:42PM (#21787770)
    I honestly don't know the technical ends and outs of either format (I'm a physicist, not a CS... albeit one who had to fuss at his students this semester for turning in crap in .docx format after I told them plaintext), but why the choice of pdf over postscript for the "formatting preserved" format? My department seems to use them pretty interchangeably... and aren't there tons of tools that do nifty things to postscript? (ps2* and *2ps style things?)

    Does it compress better or something?
    • by timeOday (582209) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:55PM (#21787852)
      My vote would be 'no' on postscript. The tools aren't as commonly installed (or as refined) as PDF. Worse, I believe .ps files commonly do not include the fonts they rely on, leading to lots of headaches. For that and whatever other reasons, .ps is a cavalcade of "execution stack" error messages, while pdf always works.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Postscript is a programming language; that's why you can have stack errors. PDF is purely declarative.
    • by netcrusher88 (743318) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `88rehsurcten'> on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:58PM (#21787874)
      1. PDFs are much, much smaller - as AC sibling said, about the size of PS after compression
      2. PDFs are relatively tamper-resistant
      3. PDFs are more widely understood
      4. PDFs are lighter to render

      I could go on about how they handle images and whatnot better too, but PS is a wonderful format when you still need to work with the document - I'm being completely serious here - but PDF is better as the final distribution method.
      • by Entropius (188861)
        Ah, okay. Thanks.

        Are they really lighter to render? My experience has been that acroread, xpdf, and such tend to bog down. Granted, this evince thingie that came installed with Ubuntu (which I just switched to, from Gentoo) seems pretty nice. (I'm a convert to "It just works!"-style Linux.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Fex303 (557896)

          I'm a convert to "It just works!"-style Linux.
          We call it OS X around here.
        • by real gumby (11516)
          "Lighter to render" is hard to calculate, and also pretty much irrelevent. PS files will often contain much more character info than is (IMHO -- YMMV) 100% needed while a PDF file will contain strings of characters which can take less time to send to your printer and less space in printer buffer. Also PDF files are computationally simpler to scale down for a small screen (perhaps not in principle but certainly in practice).

          More importantly: PDF files are more likely to contain words and e searchable, whil
          • "Lighter to render" is actually a perfectly reasonable blanket statement to make in this case (though I'm sure someone can come up with some corner cases). PostScript is a full-fledged imperative style Turing-strong programming language, whereas PDF is a simplified version of PS, which removes all conditionals and loops, thus being just a nice list of statements.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        1. PDFs are much, much smaller - as AC sibling said, about the size of PS after compression

        No they are bigger then compressed PS. How much bigger depends on what compression in use and what program used to generate the PostScript file. Note: Complex documents is usally smaller in uncompressed PS, if you use the right tool to generate the PS-file.

        2. PDFs are relatively tamper-resistant

        No. I have yet too see a PDF thats not easy to tamper with.

        3. PDFs are more widely understood

        Come on! PostScript files are plain text files in a very readable programming language.

        4. PDFs are lighter to render

        No! That depends on the program that generated the PS-file or the PDF-file.

    • by pclminion (145572) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @12:14AM (#21787964)

      Does it compress better or something?

      Yes. For pages of pure bitonal content, the JBIG2 image compression scheme can produce files approximately 30-40x smaller than the equivalent using CCITT G4. This is such a massive improvement that it makes it tempting to simply represent all documents in raster form with ancillary text information -- in other words, it competes with vector graphics as far as side. No other widely supported potential archival format provides JBIG2. This in itself is an enormous benefit, but not quite a deal-maker for PDF.

      PDF really shines in that it is easy to parse and has a limited, well-defined graphics language. The PDF/A standard even further restricts the classes of operations a conformant file can perform. On top of other things, it spells out the requirements for fonts, to ensure that documents rendered in the future will appear as intended. It also dictates that details of the document's semantic structure be embedded to assist analysis of the archived data in the future.

      I probably sound like a shill for PDF, but that isn't the case. I simply write commercial code which deals with PDF. It is a terrible shame that Adobe's viewer products have made such a bad impression on everyone. I believe PDF is a well-designed, simple, extensible format with a hell of a lot going for it, if you simply discount everything with the word "Adobe" in it.

      • The problem with postscript is that it can be alife [harvard.edu].
      • by Sax Maniac (88550)
        I'll second that. JBIG2 is pretty amazing. Apparently, it scans your entire document looking for repeated graphical sections, and then builds up a dictionary of them. It's basically making a bitmap font in reverse. Group 4 was designed for fax machines with anemic CPUs and memory, so an algorithm that uses all the capacity of a modern computer really makes a difference.

        If you allow lossy compression, then all the slight variations of a letterform in your document are likely close enough that they can all

    • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @01:25AM (#21788296) Homepage Journal
      I am associated with one of the groups providing input on these decisions, the University of Agder. I think the actual recommendation attaches some technical notes to the suggestion to use PDF, such that the PDF does not employ encryption and is a particular subset of PDF without proprietary features. Also I think there may be recommendations regarding handicap accessibility - some PDF is a blind man's misery because it doesn't preserve the document structure.

      All of that said, proper PDF is PostScript. You can feed it to the PostScript interpreter and it will render. It's not full PostScript, but a subset that is easier to process and isn't a full interpretive language as PostScript is. I've wrtten programs in PostScript that have nothing to do with printing, it's a bit similar to Forth.

      Bruce

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by naapo (982524)
        I've also written my share of PostScript code and agree to most of the things you said. Except one - PDF isn't PostScript. PostScript doesn't support alpha channel but PDF does, which is a major difference. If you render e.g. translucent gradients having a nonlinear shape into a PDF file, there is no way to convert the resulting vector graphics into PostScript (other than bitmap, that is).
        • I believe the Display PostScript extension had alpha and Porter-Duff algebra (and tokenization). I suspect that some flavor of this may have come down to the Mac from NeXTStep, but I've not looked.
    • by Quarters (18322) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @01:55AM (#21788460)
      Gah, way to want to reset the clock by 10-12 years. PDF was developed because shuffling PostScript files around was tedious and error prone. The files are large, they don't contain fonts, and since they are plaintext the cr/cr-lf/lf line end issue can affect the file on different OS's, etc... The publishing industry labored under PostScript for far too long. The first P in PDF stands for Portable for a reason. It's a far more portable format than *.ps.
    • Believe it or not - postscript isn't device independent. Also PDF files are essentially compressed PS files - there are plenty of extensions to the format that PS doesn't support (like annotations, forms etc), but PDF files don't have to have them.
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Pretty much everyone has Acrobat Reader or some other program that can read pdfs, but I've no idea where you would find a postscript viewer for Windows.

      Also, people choose pdf in the mistaken belief that it isn't editable, so being able to do nifty things to postscript isn't going to attract them to the format.
    • Here [tinaja.com] is the best postscript site I know. It's very old, but has tons of stuff that postscript can do that you never dreamed of. For instance, have you ever heard of "hanging punctuation" [tinaja.com] when you align the right margin of a text?

      When I'm doing quick and dirty stuff I use PDF, but when I want real publication-quality material nothing but postscript will do the trick.

    • It's all about formatting Postscript in intended to be Exactly what they get is what you got format. PDFs will embed all the needed fonts, etc. Scale the page to fit on whatever printer, etc. So if you make a spiffy poster with 348 point Comic Sans MS some Linux guy will still see the document has you envisioned it even if theyt don't have Comic Sans installed.

      Secondly there are options in PDF to to make PDF forms fillable as well as calculate the totals, etc. I have a USPS bulk mailing form I had added
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday December 21, 2007 @11:44PM (#21787782)
    A fourth format was also specified: Adobe Flash was mandated for all documents that need to include animated dancing silhouettes.
  • by The Master Control P (655590) <ejkeever@nerdsha c k .com> on Saturday December 22, 2007 @12:07AM (#21787930)
    Just kidding, this is truly awesome. With any luck, this will improve the efficiency of document handling in the Norwegian government and help set off a domino effect. Unfortunately, I think it's likely that us poor Americans would be the last such domino to fall, given the unbelievable amount of data that would require conversion (much of it possibly by hand) and our government's overt support of big business (i.e. Microsoft).

    But the idea of thomas.loc.gov all being in PDF... wow...
    • given the unbelievable amount of data that would require conversion (much of it possibly by hand)

      Why on earth would you do it by hand?

      Automating stuff like that is what computers are designed for. Open Office even has a batch converter built in.

  • I will be curious to see what other nations pick this up and runs with it.
  • There are lots of articles and talk about it surfacing in one government after another. And in some, it seems to get watered down to meaninglessness or removed completely (no doubt after behind-the-scenes pressure and corruption). So I have tended to ignore a lot of it. But this one might be firm. Still, having to wait an entire year, will it stick? A year from now, will it really happen there? Has the domino effect started?
  • by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @01:21AM (#21788284) Homepage
    Does anyone know how this standard affects files that are not text? I mean things like posters, graphic images, audio, video, databases, complex spreadsheets, slideshows, etc. Basically, everything outside of Word?

    For example, many government employees use Excel and are using features not supported by ODF. What happens when they need to send those files to others to edit?
    • by Bert64 (520050)
      ODF does have a "drawing" format i believe...

      Aside from that, there is really very little need to mandate standard formats for audio/images and to a slightly lesser extent video because pretty much everyone is already using standard (or if not officially standards blessed, at least open) formats for such things.

      ODF does support spreadsheets, and slideshows although a series of standard images could also comprise a slideshow...

      And databases, they are usually hosted on a server rather than kicked around as fi
    • by jonbryce (703250)
      Posters would be stored in pdf format once they are completed. That is generally the case anyway. ooo impress does pretty much everything that powerpoint does, so I can't see a problem there. The main potential problems with Excel are going to be spreadsheets that link to external data, and macros, but generally, if they have complex spreadsheets, they are probably using the wrong tool for the job.
    • by risk one (1013529)
      The calculations will come out correctly?
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      For example, many government employees use Excel and are using features not supported by ODF.
      What features are those exactly?
  • by theolein (316044) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @02:11AM (#21788538) Journal
    Although Norway itself, a relatively progressive country in IT matters (both Trolltech and Opera originated there) is fairly insigificant in the big scheme of things, this move coupled with other national governments moving in similar directions, might very well be enough to get the ball rolling. If Norwegian government IT sectors report significant savings and increased efficiency, then even more governments will likely follow. It's a fact of life that smaller countries take a good look at other small countries to compare efficiencies and practices.

    A good example would be the Finnish school system, which has consistently scored very highly in the PISA educational ratings. That had a major influence on other European countries, such as Germany, which scored much lower, and Switzerland, making them look at how they could improve their own educational systems. It's the same thing with IT. You could very well see other European countries making similar decisions in the future.

    The biggest hurdle will of course be Microsoft, which will do anything it can to stop acceptance of ODF and push in OOXML through the door. They will almost certainly try to get their big business partners to bully local governments into accepting OOXML in place of ODF.
    • by kabz (770151) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @10:43AM (#21790518) Homepage Journal
      After Microsoft's brutal treatment of ISO, and the subsequent chaos due to 'voting' members no longer being interested, I'm sure local governments will resist a bit more strongly.

      These people may not be as sophisticated as a 'big city' computer company, but you don't have to be Donald Knuth to spot the kind of shadiness that took place in ISO.
  • by pipingguy (566974) * on Saturday December 22, 2007 @06:29AM (#21789382) Homepage
    The Norskies are also pretty open about engineering standards: http://www.standard.no/ [standard.no]

    Most companies jealously guard their "intellectual property", Norway makes most of theirs freely available.

    It ain't the books or documentation that make a project successful, it's the people.
  • by udippel (562132) on Saturday December 22, 2007 @07:49AM (#21789618)
    ... in furniture. In chairs to be precise.
    Quite a few will be tossed about until Norway retracts this mandate, or adds "or OOXML"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2007 @07:53AM (#21789636)
    In other news: Microsoft has hired a sizeable force of Blackwater interrogation specialists to kidnap key individuals and influence Norways' government decision and policy makers to change their terroristic software policies "with force if necessary." "This kind of socialist-communist software can not be tolerated in a capitalist market economy," Microsoft's Blackwater press-liaison said. Bush commented that "Norway, you're next on my Freedom and Peace list," and also noted that "Norway has oil." And that "because of it, they should well afford expensive Microsoft software" and that this kind of terrorist path can not be allowed for the Norwegians.
  • I'm not a free market maniac but, really, should governments mandate particular specifications like this? Seems intrusive.
    • I'm not a free market maniac but, really, should governments mandate particular specifications like this? Seems intrusive.

      Umm, first, how is that a free market issue? Second, the company producing the de facto standard is a convicted monopolist who has repeatedly undermined the free market using file formats ,so even if this is a free market issue, the government should be legitimately stepping in and regulating it. Third, you did read the summary and know they mandated it for use within the government, not for other companies in their country, right?

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