Google's surprise: ODF support launches ahead of schedule

Months earlier than predicted by Google's head of open source, Google today announced support for the international OpenDocument Format in its Google Drive suite of apps

Following the comments by Google's head of open source, Chris DiBona, last week in London, Google has today announced that support for ODF (OpenDocument Format) has now been added to its Google Drive suite of apps. In a post on Google+, the team announced immediate support of ODT (ODF text documents), ODS (spreadsheets) and ODP (presentations), which can now all be imported into Google Docs.

Google faces significant pressure securing government business in many countries around the world, especially the U.K. -- including in the health and education sectors -- now that ODF is a requirement in so many procurement policies. Until now, the support for ODF in Google's products has been weak and uneven, with no support at all for presentations.

DiBona explained in his presentation that ODF support is implemented by different parts of Google using different code bases and approaches, so what works in one product may not be supported in another. Even with this new import support, it's not clear there have been improvements to ODF export.

Google, like Microsoft, does not make it easy to use ODF as part of a workflow. Change tracking information, annotations, and other metadata gets lost in the import process and doesn't get exported, so for both companies, ODF is seen as a migration format rather than as a working format.

That will have to change, because there's no doubt official interest in ODF around the world is growing. Google wants to sell Drive and Chromebooks into government-controlled markets, and ODF is becoming a gating factor. Perhaps as a result, Google will continue to improve its ODF support as it pushes ahead to capture future business.

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