Open Document Format (ODF): guidance for UK government

Costs and benefits of ODF

Useful information for building a business case for moving your organisation to ODF.

Benefits of moving to ODF

Open standards enable suppliers to compete on a level playing field. This competition is leading to innovative new solutions, improved processes and lower costs.

Open Documents Format (ODF) offers many benefits, including:

  • lower ICT costs
  • increased flexibility
  • better ICT governance
  • making it easier to share documents across different software for editing
  • making it possible to manage intensely cross-linked documents, such as legal texts and legislation
  • allowing multiple output sources, eg to a website, to a printer, or to specialised accessibility equipment
  • preventing problems with formatting
  • allowing much stricter security checks on incoming and outgoing documents to prevent common cyber-attack scenarios
  • better long-term preservation of information
  • providing more choice of applications (the Wikipedia page on OpenDocument lists 26 office software applications supporting or partly supporting ODF)
  • no need for plugins or converters in open source solutions like Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice, where ODF is the default

Cost savings by European governments

The following are mainly examples of savings that have been made as a result of moving to both ODF and open source software. The selection of an open standard will stimulate competition for government contracts and help to decrease costs for government of office productivity tools.

Total cost of ownership (including exit costs) must continue to be considered by government organisations on a case by case basis. In the same way, transition costs from current technology to meet ODF requirements cannot be included in cost assessments, as they represent the cost of vendor lock-in.


MIMO, an inter-ministerial working group, is implementing ODF native software solutions on the workstations of 11 of France’s 17 ministries. The LibreOffice office suite is now installed on nearly all 500,000 desktops of France’s ministries:

  • Energy (Ecology)
  • Defence (Défense)
  • Interior (Intérieur)
  • Economy
  • Justice,
  • Agriculture
  • Culture and Communication
  • Education
  • Finance
  • Health and Social Affairs
  • Foreign Affairs

None of these departments need licences, meaning none pay for them.

Toulouse, France’s fourth largest city, has saved €1 million by migrating all its desktops to LibreOffice. A study published by the European Commission’s Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR) notes that France demonstrates the largest example of a public administration using open source on workstations in Europe. The country’s Gendarmerie (a branch of the French armed forces) has Ubuntu Linux and LibreOffice running on 72,000 workstations (including the outposts in French Polynesia).

According to Major (Commandant) Stéphane Dumond this approach lowers the total costs of workstations by 40%, a combination of lower licence costs, much easier and central IT management and a huge decrease in the number of local technical interventions. “The decrease in licence costs are only the tip of the iceberg”, Dumond told South Korean government executives in 2014.


Free software such as LibreOffice and OpenOffice is popular in the public sector in Italy. The Italian city of Trieste expects to save €900,000 in proprietary office software licences between 2014 and 2017 by moving to the Apache OpenOffice suite. The administration of the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is expecting savings of €2 million by moving to free software.


In Spain several regions are switching or have switched to free software office suites. Examples include the administration of the Spanish autonomous region of Valencia. In 2013 it moved 120,000 desktop PCs of the administration, including schools and courts, to LibreOffice. The migration will save the government €1.5 million per year on software licences.

“Apart from economic benefits, the commitment to free and open source software makes the solutions available in the Valencian language as well as in Spanish, and brings IT vendor independence, which encourages competition”, the ICT department’s director general, Sofia Bellés, said in a statement at the time. “We also have the freedom to modify and adapt the software to our needs.”

In Galicia, around 1,000 workstations used by the region’s public authorities had LibreOffice installed in 2014. The government also said it would start raising awareness among the region’s public administrations about the advantages of sharing and promoting the reuse of ICT solutions.


Munich switched all of its 14,200 desktops to Linux and LibreOffice.

The Netherlands

The annual ICT costs for the Dutch municipality of Ede are now 24% lower than its peers. An OSOR study states that “most of this reduction can be explained by Ede’s extremely low spend on software licenses: only €56 per full-time equivalent employee instead of €731. Such a large reduction was achieved by moving from proprietary to open source software.”

The municipality is running dozens of open source solutions, including LibreOffice.

Other municipalities

Further examples of municipalities making savings through open source are: