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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/open-standards-for-government/sharing-or-collaborating-with-government-documents
Use the ODF 1.2 Open Document Format (ODF) standard for sharing and collaborating on documents in government.
1. Summary of the standard’s use for government
Users, businesses and government organisations must be able to share appropriately formatted, editable documents. Documents in this context include text, spreadsheets and presentations.
2. How this standard meets user needs
When the government requests or shares information, users must be able to read and edit that information in the format of their choice. Although the government provides online services, it still needs to provide documentation in an alternative method.
The standard meets the organisation’s operational needs to:
- keep content usable and editable when saved and shared with others
- create a new document with the same style as previous documents
- export documents in a format compatible with other software
- copy and paste content between sources
- create accessible information and use accessibility tools in online and offline formats
- submit information in response to a request, to perform a transaction or to access a service
- ensure the integrity of documents by having functions such as audit trails
The standard allows users to:
- open, edit and save information online and offline
- share information with specific people
- share information so they can gather feedback or respond to a request
- publish information online to provide access to a wide audience
- see version updates so users know which is the latest version, and can compare versions of documents
Users need documents to be interoperable so they can:
- use the information on the device and platform of their choice, for example a laptop, tablet or smartphone
- access historical or archived documents without the need to purchase or maintain older software
- work more flexibly and access information from any appropriate place, such as at home or the office
3. How to use the standard
Government organisations should publish information for users online, using browser-based editing by default.
When government organisations collaborate, they should use browser-based editing where possible. If this is not possible, government organisations must save documents in the Open Document Format (ODF) by default to make sharing the document easier.
Documents in this context are formatted text, images, charts, graphs and media. ODF includes filename extensions such as .odt for text, .ods for spreadsheets and .odp for presentations.
Documents are not:
- tabular data for machine-readable reuse, such as CSV formats
- complex structured data, such as XML, JSON or RDF formats
- web pages, although some documents may be published on the web as HTML documents
- mini-applications, such as calculators, financial models or smart forms
When using this standard, make sure that:
- characters are associated with Unicode for text-based file formats, in accordance with the standards profile for cross-platform character encoding
- digital continuity is possible and supports the import of older formats
- metadata is supported
- imports and exports to/from other applications are possible
- it supports fonts and graphics that are reusable in other formats
There is no requirement to convert existing information unless:
- it is an open work in progress
- there is a new request by a user to edit and collaborate on an existing document
- the information does not meet accessibility law
- a department identifies user needs and operational benefits in converting files to ODF
To integrate the standard a government organisation should:
- have a transitional period during which users can share editable documents in other formats
- avoid macros wherever possible and use a more appropriate tool that supports cross-platform interoperability
- engage with standards bodies associated with the maintenance of standards that are agreed for document formats for use in government
To integrate the standard a government organisation must not:
- refuse to accept or supply a document in the open format described in this profile
- include macros in any publicly shared documents
- implement a software extension unless it does not impact the interoperability of a document or cause usability issues
Government organisations are not expected to use a document metadata profile which might be the subject of another standard going through the open standards process.