Google Docs on Open Standards, no real technical ODF support, only political?

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Some months ago I configured my domain to work with Google Apps. I was really thrilled because I read that they supported ODF. My first though was that I would be able to work on documents with Open Office and then be also able to rework them on Google Docs. Saddly that was not the case, I tried to upload a 47.8KB ODT file and to my surprise I got the following:

We encountered an error converting your file.

We have encountered an error, which we will investigate immediately. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The worst is that even in Google Docs you get the following when trying to upload a file:

Types of files that you can upload:

Documents (up to 500KB)

  • HTML files and plain text (.txt).
  • Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx), Rich Text (.rtf), OpenDocument Text (.odt) and StarOffice (.sxw).

Presentations (up to 10MB from your computer, 2MB from the web, 500KB via email)

  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps).

Spreadsheets (up to 1MB)

  • Comma Separated Value (.csv).
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls, .xlsx) files and OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods).

PDF Files (up to 10MB from your computer, 2MB from the web)

Then I decided to check on this and found the following in an Official Google Blog: A renewed wish for open document standards. Be aware that they use the plural form: standards. They write about supporting the Open document Format, saddly support in their Google Docs product doesn’t really exist, at least not in the technical way, which is what really matters to users. They write the following:

Google supports open document standards and the Open Document Format – ODF, the recognized international standard (ISO 26300). ODF is supported and implemented across the globe, and its communal creation and iteration has helped ensure the transparency, consistency and interoperability necessary in a workable standard.


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I now assume they refer to the support in the political way, but I find this ridiculous. For me this is misguiding the users, I’m really disappointed and believe that they should not be allowed to publish they support a format when they don’t. Also that is not correct that they write specifically that you can upload ODT files when they don’t really support them.

I also found a relatively old article saying Google Docs doesn’t really support ODT, but SXW. Since that article is from 2006, you would assume that they had already done somthing about it, but apparently that’s not the case.

During this “real life” tests, we noticed that all the files created with the online application “Google Docs” were not converted successfully. This was strange enough for us to look in detail at what was wrong. And we found out that Google Docs was simply not able to export to ODF. Actually, the file menu says “Save as OpenOffice” and not “Save as OpenDocument”. The output file is an SXW file (the legacy format from previous versions of Star Office and… with an ODT extension! I don’t know if by doing this way the guys from Google wanted to make people think that they had implemented the ODF format, but that was a nice try! 😉 I guess that they are working hard to achieve the compatibility, but in the mean time our converter won’t be able to open documents made with Google Docs – no need to complain, we have commited to handle OASIS OpenDocument format, not all the formats of the earth!


And well, I also encounter some other stuff about OOXML, and I completely support Google’s point of view, since they have many concerns like:

• The limitations on the openness of OOXML format;
• The lack of proper review as compared to other ISO standards;
• The continued use of binary code tied to platform-specific features; and
• Unclear licensing terms for third-party implementers.


From my point of view, ODF should be the standard Office Document Format and even though many belive that ODF is basically implemented around OpenOffice; Koffice and LotusNotes prove them wrong:

The OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) is the ISO standard for office document interchange. ODF has been selected as the national standard for many countries around the world, and continues to grow stronger every month. KOffice uses the OpenDocument Format as its native format. This will guarantee interoperability with many other Office packages such as and MS Office. The KOffice team has representatives on the OASIS technical committee for ODF and has been a strong participant in the process of shaping ODF since
its inception.


At the (OO) Conference, IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced a long-term commitment to the OpenDocument Format (ODF) by unveiling a roadmap for the expansion of the free Lotus Symphony office application suite to MacIntosh, Ubuntu Linux, OpenOffice 3.0 and Microsoft Office customers.



So I would love to get an explanation from Google about why they write they support ODF format, when they really don’t.

3 thoughts on “Google Docs on Open Standards, no real technical ODF support, only political?

  1. Barry de Graaff

    Additionally when I send/receive mails in Google apps I see this:

    2 attachments — Download all attachments
    hypotheekvragenformulier.doc hypotheekvragenformulier.doc
    43K View as HTML Download

    hypotheekvragenformulier.odt hypotheekvragenformulier.odt
    12K Download

    So there is an html view available for doc (docx) and not for odt, that truly confirms
    everything you sad in your post about ‘political’ but not technical support.

    What about the search engine?

  2. Pingback: Google goes with the Open Standard, well done, but what’s with ODF? Why do you still have a proprietary format for your Google DOCS? « Garza’s BLOG

  3. Leia Consoli

    What a great written articles! This is very worthed to read & also easy to understand. I will look for more such blog post! Hey, do you have facebook or twitter? I recommend it on social bookmarking sites just like as dig! However, thanks for this articles.

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