Open Documents are Good for Texas
Currently if you get some document from a Texas office or agency, dollars to doughnuts it comes in some proprietary word processing format. If you want to use this document, you either have to purchase the software that matches that document, or gamble that the software you like may have reverse engineered the proprietary format and won't fumble the document too much.
I don't like it when the state tells me which software I should buy.
It would be wonderful if state used open, non-proprietary formats to store their documents. Instead of letting the state to dictate which software we should use, we could choose whichever product works best for our needs. Proprietary formats create an unfair state mandate. Open formats trust to markets to deliver the best solution.
All of us already know the benefits of open document standards. Every time we open a document on the web, we get a document in an open, standard format called HTML. Most recent versions of HTML are layered on a basic technology called the Extensible Markup Language, or XML. XML is a widely embraced, leading standard for storing structured documents.
Why can't we take the benefits that an open XML standard brings to web documents and apply them to word-processing documents?
The answer is, we can. There currently is a standard called OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications or OpenDocument for short, or ODF for even shorter. I'm not endorsing ODF, but rather citing it as an example that works right now. Other standards are possible, and that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, just so long as they are open and vendors can make their products interoperable.
There currently is a bill in the Texas legislature that would require Texas use an XML-based, open, non-proprietary format for its documents. The bill does not mandate the ODF format—or any other particular format. Instead, it calls for open standards, and allows for markets to select the technologies and software that work best.
If you have a chance take a look at the following two committees:
If your state senator or representative sites on one of these committees, consider shooting them a quick fax or email this weekend to let them know that you think open document formats would be good for Texas.