Why develop for OpenDocument?

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Why should I develop for the OpenDocument format?

Because OpenDocument is...

  • An ISO standard. OpenDocument is now mandated in government by international treaties. [1] [2] The government is the single largest user of most products.
  • The future. The Gartner Group projects that ISO will not approve Microsoft's Open XML format and that OpenDocument adoption will expand rapidly as the favored solution for office document software interoperability. And as a result MS Office will decline in popularity.
  • Truly open. You won't hit artificial barriers imposed by your competitor or your supplier in order to maintain control of the file format. [3]
  • Cross-platform. Unlike Microsoft's Open XML formats, OpenDocument includes no dependencies on Microsoft Windows. It was designed as a true cross-platform file format specification.
  • Stable. Because it is an approved international standard and is required as a unaltered specification in many governmental roles, there are few opportunities for one of your competitors to apply unfair tactics such as embracing, extending, and extinguishing the standard.
  • Versatile. There are no dependencies on the features and APIs of any particular application or operating system. Your developed application can stand alone.
  • Interoperable. Your application's output can be used by any other ODF-aware application running on any operating system. Finally, the developer community has a truly interoperable rich formatting set of file formats for the creation of rich documents. You are not at the mercy of one of your competitors who will not have your best interests at heart.
  • Microsoft Office-compatible. Several tools are already available for converting between Open Document and Microsoft Office files. See for example the conversion tools category on our Applications page. Others are under development, including an Office Open XML-OpenDocument Translator plugin project for Office being sponsored by Microsoft. Several of these tools are already in production use.
  • Modular. Because there are no application or operating system dependencies, you can achieve greater modularity among multiple applications, either loosely coupled or within a suitable application framework.
  • Popular. Many developers are already staking out their first-mover advantage with OpenDocument support. See our applications page for a growing but non-comprehensive list of apps supporting ODF. Should you be left behind?
  • Easy to work with. ODF is XML, written with the goal of maximising ease of understanding. The specification is an easy to read Relax-NG schema, and it builds on existing standards that you may already be familiar with like XLink, MathML, SVG and XForms. When no existing candidate is available, it uses syntax inspired by XHTML. Quick, what does this do?
        xlink:type="simple" xlink:show="embed"

    What about this?

    <text:h text:style-name="Heading_2">
       Introduction to OpenDocument
    <text:p text:style-name="Text_body">
       OpenDocument is the only ISO standard covering
       the needs of office applications. It can
       represent text documents, spread sheets, vector
       graphics, presentations and more. It reuses
       existing standards and puts them in one simple
  • XML. ODF brings to document production the many advantages of XML:
    • It is inherently extensible. In addition, the OpenDocument specification specifically allows extensions. You can add features to the format to meet particular needs.
    • It can be manipulated by the myriad of standard XML parsers. XML has been in use for 20 years, and is a very mature technology.
    • It is easier to convert between XML formats than between binary ones. For example, we've made a Firefox extension to make it read ODF files. We did this by just converting ODF into HTML.
  • A platform to build on. ODF will be regularly updated and developers are free to seek needed enhancements through an open standardisation process that favours no vendor. ODF lets developers cooperate where it makes sense to do so.
  • A level playing field. Because of all the factors discussed above, ODF offers a level playing field. ODF developers can compete based on product utility, quality, and price. The ODF playing field is not tilted by being under the control of a company or consortium that can exclude competitors.


[1] Article VI of the Agreement on Government Procurement and Article II of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.

[2] The E.C.'s IDABC, is an example of an implementing government body. Here is a good article that deals with OpenDocument and IDABC in context. NOTE: That article was written before OpenDocument became an ISO standard. Since then, many governments have announced they are moving to OpenDocument. See this site's government precedent page for the growing but non-comprehensive list.

[3] Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center has issued a formal legal opinion, concluding that "[o]n the factual basis described, and subject to reservations, it is our opinion that ODF, as standardized and licensed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information (OASIS), is free of legal encumbrances that would prevent its use in free and open source software, as distributed under licenses authored by Apache and the FSF."