Suite Utopia, or What ODF Needs to Change the Game

If you use ODF, you’re in the minority. If you use Linux, you’re in an even bigger minority. So if you’re like me and happen to be in these minorities, then you should know how hard it is to avoid Microsoft’s proprietary formats and fonts and you’ve likely also gotten complaints about your documents (whether it be that the recipient can’t open them or they just don’t render correcly in Office).

So what should we do about this?

ODF in the browser

A big step towards bringing ODF to the masses is putting an ODF viewer on every computer. Even though LibreOffice is free, most people won’t download a whole office suite just to open that one file that you sent them. They probably won’t even want to download a small viewer or an ODF converter, because they don’t feel safe installing unknown software, installation takes time, and, let’s face it, it’s just more crapware installed on the computer.

And so it’d be great if Chromium and Firefox (and other browsers) could open ODF files. It’d be preferable if it was built-in, but as this suggestion was rejected on the Chromium bug reporter (since ODF is much less common than PDF), the feature could be developed as an extension. I’m not sure if anyone is still actively working on it, though there was some discussion on both the TDF and the ODF mailing lists.

Fonts everywhere

Another step towards liberation from MS technology is liberation from the proprietary fonts they utilize (namely Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier). There are font banks that help us with that: Google Web Fonts, the League of Movable Type, and the Open Font Library. Now all that remains to be done is to integrate these with office suites. For example, a person who receives a document with a font he/she doesn’t have installed should be automatically asked to install that font by the office suite (if it can be found on one of these font banks).

ODF everywhere

But let’s not stop there. Let’s make it easy for any software developer to implement ODF support in his software. That’s just what WebODF, ODFKit, and Calligra Suite (to a level) do.

WebODF is a JavaScript library that allows you to add ODF support to your website, but also to desktop and mobile software. It paves the way for an open-source online office suite. There’s a pretty good video about it up on YouTube.

ODFKit is what came before WebODF was conceived. It was developed by the same person, Jos van den Oever, but it isn’t a JavaScript library and doesn’t use HTML and CSS to display documents. Rather, just like WebKit, it’s a layout engine for rendering ODF documents.

Calligra Suite is an office suite, just like LibreOffice. But unlike LibreOffice, Calligra Suite has a much more modular core and therefore it should be much easier to branch and move to other platforms. There’s a good post about it on Inge Wallin’s blog.


2 thoughts on “Suite Utopia, or What ODF Needs to Change the Game

  1. As of today, WebODF has an Android application. We hope that this will grow the community and user base.

    1. Great!
      I’d help if I could — if you have any super simple task, then tell me; I could also contribute a Czech translation, if you have anything for me to translate.

      As an aside, are there any plans on bringing common (text) formatting features to the WYSIWIG odfedit.html editor?

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