OpenDocument up for adoption in Texas, Minnesota

States may follow Massachusetts in making the rival to Microsoft Word format the standard for all documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Minnesota and Texas may become the next states to adopt the OpenDocument Format as the required standard for their agencies, thanks to two state bills up for vote.

The Minnesota Preservation of State Documents Act, if passed, would require that all documents "including text, spreadsheets and presentations" of the state be created in ODF. The XML-based document format is a rival to Microsoft's Office technology.

The one-page bill, HF0176, was introduced to the state's legislative Committee on Governmental Operations, Reform, Technology and Elections on January 17 by Rep. Paul Thissen. Reps. Melissa Hortman and Steve Simon later joined as co-authors of the bill.

If it passes the vote, Minnesota Preservation of State Documents Act will go into effect on July 1, 2008.

The Texas bill SB 446, authored by state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, was filed with the state senate on Monday. That act, if passed, would take effect on December 1, 2007, but agencies would be given until September 1, 2008, to comply.

If the changeover happens, not only will Texas agencies have to create documents in ODF, they will not be permitted to convert received documents into Microsoft's proprietary format in Word, according to the bill's current wording.

"Each state agency must be able to receive electronic documents in an open, Extensible Markup Language-based file format for office applications and may not change documents to a file format used by only one vendor," according to the bill.

This would not prohibit the use of Office altogether, as Microsoft released an ODF converter for its document application in early February. Sun also expects to release a translator for ODF that works with Office 2003. In addition, both companies have said they will introduce translators for spreadsheets and presentations.

Massachusetts met with opposition from disability-rights groups when it mandated ODF as the commonwealth's adopted standard by January 2007, because the format had limited aids available at the time. In response, Massachusetts adopted ODF plug-ins that would allow people with disabilities to use the same kinds of aids available for Microsoft Office files.

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