French Government IT Directorate Stands Its Ground : ODF Supported, OOXML Rejected

Paris, 7 July 2015. For immediate release.

The final draft version of the RGI (general interoperability framework), still awaiting final validation, maintains ODF as the recommended format for office documents within French administrations. This new version of the RGI provides substantiated criticism of the OOXML Microsoft format. April thanks the DISIC (French Inter-ministerial IT directorate) for not giving in to pressure and acting in the long-term interest of all French citizens and their administrations.

Several months ago, the DISIC (Direction interministérielle des systèmes d'information et de communication, inter-ministerial Information and Communication Systems directorate) started updating the RGI (General Interoperability Framework)1. This work ended up specifically advocating ODF (Open Document Format) for office documents. As a result, Microsoft-led lobby was done at the highest level in order to integrate the Microsoft's OOXML (Office Open XML) format in the RGI.

The last draft version of the RGI named "Release 1.9.9 - 2015 June - Project for final validation" mentions OOXML, but does so in order to discredit the format and assign it the "under observation" status, the ODF format retaining the "recommended" status.

This document explains (our translation):

Office Open XML is a ISO/CEI 29500 standard created by Microsoft, intended to fullfill interoperabilty needs in office environments and to compete with the OpenDocument interoperability solution supported by all others software office editors, especially Apache and The Document Foundation. This format (which uses the suffixes .docx, .xlsx and .pptx) is used since Microsoft Office 2007, replacing previous Microsoft formats (which can be recognized by their suffixes such as .doc, .xls, .ppt), it is however slighty different for these versions of Office than the definitive ISO standard, which took stock of comments from members of the standard settings body.

The standard is given an "under observation" status due to its complexity, its lack of openness (especially in the standard governance) and the strict respect of the standard by Microsoft itself.

For information exchange needs through tables, the use of OOXML is tolerated.

The DISIC reiterates the criticism made against OOXML formats for many years and tolerates its use only for information exchange needs through tables. It is higly likely that this tolerance corresponds to a special use case inside a specific administration department.

It is delightful to note that the result of Microsoft's lobbying process is not the one expected by the editor and that it leads to the invalidation of OOXML within the French administration.

"The terms used in the RGI are polite but the criticism against OOXML is without appeal. The DISIC demonstrated that it acted in the long term interest of the French citizens and their administrations." declared Frédéric Couchet, executive director for April.

  • 1. The RGI is the reference document for the administrations, which enable them to know which format to favor in order to ensure interoperability.