Open Document Format (ODF): guidance for UK government

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Overview of productivity software

A non-exhaustive list of productivity solutions that allow you to work with ODF, including product features and other important details.

Auxiliary products and services

After assessing the needs of your users, you’ll understand what functionality your organisation and audiences require from office document handling solutions.

A variety of applications work with ODF 1.2 out of the box. You also might be able to continue using an existing application by using a plugin, add-on or extension.

Open source solutions allow cost-effective customisation to your organisation’s needs. The sooner your organisation moves to support the ODF 1.2 standard, the better able you are to find the best-value solutions for your needs.

This chapter is a non-exhaustive list of productivity solutions that allow you to work with Open Document Format (ODF). Other solutions that could be relevant include:

Detailed discussion of such auxiliary products, projects and services is out of scope of this document.

AbiWord

AbiWord is a fast, lightweight word processor that can even run on older computers without much processing power. Features include real-time collaboration, including through a direct connection between computers, which offers more security. Its feature set may not be as wide-ranging as some others on the market, but it offers what the average user needs in a user-friendly solution.

  • Current release: 3.0.1 (2014)
  • Release schedule: feature driven
  • Type: text editor
  • Platforms: Linux, UNIX, Windows, Minix, ReactOS, QNX
  • Customisation allowed: yes, entirely open source
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: no
  • Change tracking support: (temporarily not available)
  • Unique features:
    • private collaborative editing
    • extensive RDF metadata support
    • low hardware requirements

Apache OpenOffice

Apache OpenOffice is a community-driven open source productivity suite available on many different operating systems. It includes a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet application (Calc), a presentation engine (Impress), a drawing and flowcharting application (Draw), a database and database front-end (Base) and mathematics editing (Math). The software looks and feels familiar, with many reporting it’s instantly usable if they’ve used other common office products.

Apache OpenOffice was conceived and designed as a complete office package, with different components that share the same elements, making for an easier learning curve for users. At the end of 2014 over 130 million copies of Apache OpenOffice had been downloaded. Future versions will be signed in a way compatible with Windows security settings, to allow safe and seamless installation. Bespoke releases are available from multiple parties.

  • Current release: 4.4.1 (Feb, 2015)
  • Release schedule: twice a year, custom releases
  • Type: office suite
  • Platforms: Linux, BSD, Windows, Mac OS X
  • Customisation allowed: yes, entirely open source
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: no
  • Change tracking support: yes
  • Unique features:
    • hundreds of extensions available
    • interactive image Crop Feature
    • iAccessible2 accessibility framework
    • SVG support

Bread

Bread is a fully responsive HTML5-based collaborative document editing platform that runs in the browser, without any plugins/ActiveX/Flash/Java applets. The client is supported by all major browsers, devices, tablets and mobile phones. The server part of Bread can be installed on any Windows or Linux OS, and is available as a hosted solution as well.

The web client can be embedded within any application, making it a full document editing software and co-authoring solution. Bread consists of a word processor (Docs) and a spreadsheet application (Sheets).

  • Current release: 1.2 (2015)
  • Release schedule: Major release every year, minor release every 4-6 months.
  • Type: text editor, spreadsheet
  • Platforms: Browser (platform agnostic)
  • Customisation allowed: no
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: no (announced for version 1.3)
  • Change tracking support: no (announced for version 2.0)
  • Unique features:
    • built-in automated versioning
    • real-time collaborative editing
    • available as both on-premise and in-cloud
    • integrated chat
    • share and embed document in webpages and public locations
    • full API for easy integration
    • built-in rights management to invite users with different edit rights
    • ability to load documents in read only mode

Calligra Suite

Calligra Suite is a relatively new, open source office suite for desktops and tablets that has a unique user interface. It bundles a number of classical tools such as a text editor (Words), a spreadsheet (Sheets), presentation software (Stage), database (Kexi) with the other free creative tools inside the Calligra suite such as Krita, a digital painting application, and a number of desktop publishing features.

Calligra aims to be a powerful and easy-to-use tool for a wide audience rather than specialist needs. It’s produced with the support of the KDE technology team, one of the largest open source developer communities in the world. Calligra is very modular and is built around the open source Calligra Office Engine, which contains many freely reusable components. These can be used to embed any of Calligra’s capabilities inside bespoke applications.

Calligra recently started a new series of applications called Calligra Gemini, a touch-friendly tablet app version of Calligra’s word processor and presentation application.

  • Current release: 2.9.7 (Aug, 2015)
  • Release schedule: monthly updates, bi-annual release
  • Type: office suite
  • Platforms: Linux, BSD (preliminary support for Windows, Mac OS X)
  • Customisation allowed: yes, entirely open source
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: yes
  • Change tracking support: (temporarily not available)
  • Unique features:
    • strong RDF metadata support
    • ebook editor (Calligra Author)
    • creative whiteboards (Calligra Braindump)
    • touch-friendly tablet versions (Calligra Gemini series)
    • support for Google Docs, so you can link to and open Google documents for editing on your desktop.
    • integrated globe
    • music notation editor

EtherCalc

EtherCalc is a collaborative web spreadsheet that allows multiple users to do real-time editing on a shared spreadsheet. A free software project led by software engineer Audrey Tang, it’s based on the open source javascript spreadsheet engine SocialCalc. SocialCalc was created by a team led by Dan Bricklin, author in 1978 of the world’s first spreadsheet Visicalc and member of the ODF TC Formula subcommittee that drafted the ODF 1.2 standard.

Inspired by the wiki model, EtherCalc aims to combine the authoring ease and multi-person editing of wikis with the familiar visual formatting and calculating capabilities of spreadsheets.

  • Current release: continuous releases
  • Type: spreadsheet
  • Platforms: Web application, can be self-hosted on any OS
  • Customisation allowed: yes, entirely open source
  • Supported ODF version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: not yet
  • Change tracking support: provides an audit trail
  • Unique features:
    • private collaborative editing when self-hosted
    • no setup required for hosted version, runs inside the browser

You can read about the creation and design of EtherCalc in the free online book ‘The Architecture of Open Source Applications’.

EuroOffice Professional

EuroOffice is an integrated office suite running on both Windows and Linux systems. It’s an open source project that contains a text editor, spreadsheet, presentation software, database and drawing and other tools. EuroOffice is built on an enhanced code incorporating code from OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice and Apache Open Office, as well as joint R&D work of the company MultiRáció and Szeged University in Hungary.

EuroOffice 2015 Professional includes technical support and a number of extensions, including various language tools, a real-time dictionary, professional map charting tools, mathematical solvers for linear, quadratic, non-linear and Hungarian algorithm optimization problems. EuroOffice also contains a custom extension creator.

  • Current release: EuroOffice 2015
  • Release schedule: annual
  • Type: office suite
  • Platforms: Windows, Linux,
  • Customisation allowed: limited to core platform
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: yes
  • Change tracking support: yes
  • Unique features:
    • adaptive interface that changes the size of menu items according to usage frequency
    • many different plugins for sparklines, statistics modelling, physics simulation, mail archiving, linguistic, mathematical and map charting tools, measuring writing progress
    • ExtensionCreator Pro

Gnumeric

Gnumeric is a versatile and powerful spreadsheet, created and maintained by the open source GNOME project. Its stated advantages are that it:

  • is fast and stable
  • uses an intuitive interface that users familiar with similar applications will find easy to pick up
  • can be used in a wide variety of environments
  • has a wealth of features and is particularly reliable for the accuracy of its calculations
  • includes a highly configurable data importer and exporter which allows many formats to be added as plugin software routines

The core architecture is designed to ensure that Gnumeric can comfortably scale to moderately large loads (1 million cells) while remaining usable on older hardware.

  • Current release: Gnumeric 1.12.23 (Aug 2015)
  • Release schedule: feature driven
  • Type: spreadsheet
  • Platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, BSD (Windows version is possible, but needs a sponsor)
  • Customisation allowed: yes, entirely open source
  • Supported ODF version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: not yet
  • Change tracking support: not yet
  • Unique features:
    • Unique analytics capabilities
    • Low hardware requirements
    • Offers programmatic utilities for instance for automated comparing and converting of spreadsheets

Google Apps

Google Apps includes a collaborative web text editor (Docs) and spreadsheet application (Sheets). Both products allow multiple users to do real-time editing on a shared document and can be used through dedicated apps running on 2 mobile platforms:

  • Google’s officially branded version of Android
  • Apple iOS devices.

Google Apps is a commercial online application that users must register to use. Instead of track changes, Google Docs lets users make suggestions that the owner of a document can accept or reject later. These ‘Suggested Edits’ are available for anyone with commenting access, but cannot be exported for use in another application.

  • Current release: (no version published, continuous releases)
  • Type: text editor, spreadsheet
  • Platforms: Web application, supports most browsers
  • Customisation allowed: no Supported ODF version: import ODF 1.1/1.2, export ODF 1.1
  • Font embedding: not yet
  • Change tracking support: provides history and ‘suggested edits’, cannot be exported to other applications
  • Unique features:
    • offline editing and remerging capabilities
    • no setup required for browser version, installable app version available as well
    • offers a number of APIs (application programming interfaces) for accessing documents programmatically
    • online Google forms offer convenient data collection in online spreadsheets

Kotype

Kotype is an open source collaborative editor that has both a downloadable application version and a web-based version.

Part of the WebODF family of open source ODF tools, Kotype allows multiple users to work simultaneously on the same document using any modern browser. It’s a clutter-free solution that’s been designed around the ODF standard to create high quality and fully interoperable ODF documents.

  • Current release: 0.9 (2015)
  • Release schedule: unknown
  • Type: text editor (spreadsheets and presentations can be viewed, not yet edited)
  • Platforms: browser based
  • Customisation allowed: yes
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: yes
  • Change tracking support: no
  • Unique features:
    • lossless round-trip editing for ODF text documents
    • collaborative editing
    • server can be installed on site

LibreOffice

LibreOffice is a community-driven open source productivity suite available on a variety of operating systems. Developed with the support of the not-for-profit Document Foundation, LibreOffice includes a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet application (Calc), a presentation engine (Impress), a drawing and flowcharting application (Draw), a database and database frontend (Base) and mathematics editing (Math).

The suite fits into existing IT environments and works with Microsoft SMS Server, Novell ZENWorks, IBM Tivoli, Citrix, etc. Custom versions are available with enterprise in mind, offering features such as MSP patch files and Group Policy Object management. There are official releases twice a year, with bespoke releases available from multiple parties.

  • Current release: 5.0.1 (Aug, 2015)
  • Release schedule: 2 releases per year
  • Type: office suite
  • Platforms: Linux, BSD, Windows, Mac OS X
  • Customisation allowed: yes, entirely open source
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: yes
  • Change tracking support: yes
  • Unique features:
    • Microsoft Visio reader/viewer and import support
    • Google Docs compatible (import/export, read/write)
    • CMIS protocol support to access Document Management Systems
    • rich ecosystem of hundreds of extensions
    • iAccessible2 accessibility framework

For a more comprehensive list see the project’s own feature comparison with Microsoft Office 2013.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office includes presentation software (Powerpoint), a spreadsheet (Excel), a word processor (Word), a database (Access) and a number of smaller applications. Office offers an extensive feature set that closely integrates with other products from Microsoft as well as third party vendors such as Dropbox. It offers a variety of pricing plans, subscription and licensing models, as well as on-premise and cloud-based deployment options. Enterprise deployment support is also available.

New releases of the on-premise version are made roughly every 3 years. However, with the introduction of Office Online, enhancements are released on an ongoing basis. See the Office Online roadmap for further details.

Office 2013 for Windows supports ODF 1.2, but without change tracking.

Office 365 supports ODF 1.2 and cloud collaboration capabilities but does not include change tracking for exported documents.

  • Current release: ‘15’ / Office 2013 (Feb, 2013), Office 365
  • Release schedule: new release per 3 years, or ongoing for cloud version
  • Type: office suite
  • Platforms: Windows, plus cross platform browser support for Office Online and mobile clients available for iOS and Android.
  • Customisation allowed: no
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: no
  • Change tracking support: no
  • Unique features:
    • convenience functions such as Quick Analysis, Flash fill and Chart recommendations
    • SmartArt diagrams
    • Ink annotations
    • editing of embedded videos
    • includes auxiliary applications such as email and note-taking (no support for ODF, only legacy formats)
    • hosted web version of apps with collaborative editing, including messaging
    • digital signatures without need to install plugin

Microsoft Office has official support for ODF 1.1 in Office 2007 for Windows (as of Service Pack 2), Office 2010 and Office 2013 (read only for ODF 1.1, read and write for ODF 1.2). Users of versions of Office from Office 2003 can also use the http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net/, which supports ODF 1.1 and has basic change tracking support.

None of the released versions of Microsoft Office for Apple OS X have had support for OpenDocument Format at the time of publication.

Owncloud Documents

Owncloud is a suite of client-server software for creating file hosting services and using them. Documents is a lightweight editing solution that can conveniently be used from any device, to quickly view and perform basic edits to ODF documents. Owncloud Documents is part of the WebODF family of open source ODF tools.

  • Current release: 8.1 (2015)
  • Release schedule: annual
  • Type: text editor
  • Platforms: browser based
  • Customisation allowed: yes
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: yes
  • Change tracking support: no
  • Unique features:
    • lossless round-trip editing for ODF text documents
    • document management

OX Text

OX Text is an open source collaborative web text editing solution that allows multiple users to do real-time editing on a shared document. OX Text is part of a modular cloud based solution that also offers open source spreadsheets, a calendar, address book, mail, messaging, storage and time management. It offers centralised document sharing with version control inside the browser.

OX Text backend is licensed under a GPLv2 license and frontend under a CC BY-SA-NC license (see the FAQ). Commercial support is available. A subscription-based hosted version is also available as a white label. Track changes information is currently limited to legacy formats and cannot be imported or exported for use in another ODF application.

  • Current release: 7.6.2 (2015)
  • Release schedule: twice a year
  • Type: text editor, spreadsheets
  • Platforms: Browser-based (see the system requirements)
  • Customisation allowed: yes
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: no
  • Change tracking support: only legacy formats
  • Unique features:
    • lossless round-trip editing for ODF documents
    • collaborative editing with exclusive editing rights
    • re-use paragraph and table styles imported from the original ODF documents
    • auto-save feature saves all document changes automatically

Wodo.TextEditor component

Wodo.TextEditor is a lightweight and generic OpenDocument Text editor component that can be added to a website or mobile or desktop application using a few lines of JavaScript. It allows users to quickly view and perform basic edits to ODF documents from any device that lacks ODF support. Just open the webpage containing Wodo, select your file from the toolbar and start editing. Wodo.TextEditor works directly in the browser without any dependencies, so there’s no need for any server support. Wodo.TextEditor is part of the WebODF family of open source ODF tools.

It is open source so you can install it anywhere and customise it to fit any purpose. The barebones Wodo is fully functional and usable even on the public demo.

  • Current release: 0.5.9 (2015)
  • Release schedule: feature driven
  • Type: text editor (spreadsheets and presentations can be viewed, but not yet edited)
  • Platforms: browser based
  • Customisation allowed: yes
  • Supported ODF-version: 1.2
  • Font embedding: yes
  • Change tracking support: no
  • Unique features:
    • lossless round-trip editing for ODF text documents
    • easy integration with websites and mobile/desktop applications
    • documents do not leave your computer while editing