(Originally posted March 2006)
Remember that commercial for Compass bank, that shows the woman at an ATM in her closet? The ATM told her, "I'm sorry, there will be $2 fee to access your tube top."
(Honest, there is a commercial like that. I'm not just using blatant sexy illustrations for shock value to draw attention to the benefits of ODF.)
That's what the Open Document Format, or ODF, is all about. Lots of people and organizations want all documents to be in .odf rather than .doc or .xls format.
Most software you use creates documents in a propriety format. That means that the way the software creates the files is exclusive to the people who wrote that software. You can't use another program to open your own files, or at least your choices are very narrow. That means you need to buy software to continue to open files with those formats--if you want to be able to continue to access your own documents. Your thoughts, your meeting minutes, your personal budget spreadsheets, etc.--all need to be rented from the people who wrote the software.
Doesn't it seem kind of odd to have to keep paying for the right to get at documents you created?. It's like paying to rent a house you own. It's like having to pay a fee to get into your own closet for your own tube top.
OpenOffice.org, Sun, and other folks think everyone, including Microsoft, should write programs that output documents in Open Document Format. The instructions for creating programs that make ODF documents are available for anybody to use. That way, when all programs create documents in the same format, then you don't have to pay to open your documents. You can pick the application you want to use, there will be zillions of them, and some of them are free. You aren't dependent on one software program to get at your documents. OpenOffice.org uses ODF format.
Here's an article on what's going on with a group that was formed to promote ODF, and Microsoft.
Here's the web site of the fine folks of the Open Document Format.
And here's the web site of Scott Johnson who just sums things up quite nicely regarding open source, and open document format. See the item at the end of his list.