Massachusetts Mandates Open-Format Documents, Edges Towards Linux

Massachusetts mandates the use of open-format documents for state agencies by the end of 2006. OpenDocument and PDF formats to become new state standards for saving data files. (

The state of Massachusetts will revamp its digital output during the next 16 months to create only open-format documents and is increasing its use of Linux and free and open source software (FOSS) among its workers, the states chief information officer told Thursday in a conference call.

CIO Peter Quinn challenged Microsoft and other companies who sell software that uses proprietary document formats to consider enabling open-format options as soon as possible.

Quinn said that "government is creating history at a rapidly increasing rate, and all documents we save must be accessible to everybody, without having to use closed software to open them now and in the future."

The state official said Wednesday that starting on Jan. 1, 2007, all electronic documents created by state employees could be saved in only two format types: OpenDocument, which is used in open-source applications such as, and the Adobe-created PDF (Portable Document Format). OpenDocument can be used for saving documents such as letters, spreadsheets, tables, and graphical presentations. It is the default file format for OpenOffice 2.0, which is currently in Beta 2 release.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about OASIS approval of the OpenOffice 2.0 file format.

Quinn said the state runs a "vast majority" of its office and system computers on Windows and that "only a very small percentage of them run Linux and other open-source software at this time. This is in tune with the general market in the US. But we like to eat our own cooking, in that we are using and Linux more and more as time goes along, because it produces open format documents."

In contrast, Microsofts Office creates Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other documents that are accessible only by Microsoft products, making them ineligible for use, the state said.

"Microsoft has remade the desktop world," Quinn said. "But if youve watched history, theres a slag heap of proprietary companies who have fallen by the wayside because they were stuck in their ways. Just look at the minicomputer business, for example. The world is about open standards and open source. I cant understand why anybody would want to continue making closed-format documents anymore."

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