UK Government plans to ditch Microsoft Office, move to open-source solutions

Microsoft has enjoyed a good deal of success in pitching its Office 365 solutions to government agencies and departments in the US. In August, the company announced that 120,000 government workers in the state of New York had been signed up, adding to similar agreements signed with Chicago, Seattle and Kansas City, among others. 

But across the pond in the United Kingdom, the government doesn't seem to have quite so much love for Office. As The Guardian reports, Her Majesty's Government is planning to overhaul its software procurement policies in a move that is intended to save tens of millions of pounds a year for the public purse. Since 2010, the UK public sector has reportedly spent a staggering £200m on Office licensing alone. 

Later today, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude will outline some of the considerations behind the plans to move away from Office, towards lower-cost open-source solutions. His remarks will refer to a "tiny oligopoly" of companies that currently dominate the supply of software and services to government departments, and the need to open up procurement to a broader range of suppliers in an effort to drive down costs and foster greater innovation. 

"We know the best technology and digital ideas often come from small businesses," Mr Maude will say, "but too often in the past, they were excluded from government work... We weren't just missing out on innovation; we were paying top dollar for yesterday's technology." 

A major component of the proposals will be a move to standardise document formats across government. Mr Maude will say: "Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution. But be in no doubt: the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open [the government's] lock-in to proprietary formats. In turn, we will open the door for a host of other software providers." 

This will pave the way for a transition from Office to other productivity suites such as Google Docs and open-source solutions like OpenOffice which, the minister will say, will ensure that "civil servants have access to the information they need and can get their work done without having to buy a particular brand of software... This will help departments to do something as simple as share documents with each other more easily. But it will also make it easier for the public to use and share government information." 

Despite the UK Government's planned transition away from Office, many private sector organisations have opted to stick with Microsoft's suite, including global communications giant Telefónica and IAG, parent company of British Airways and Iberia. Last year, we reported on an IT consultancy that claimed it had seen many of its clients "flee Google Apps for Office 365". 

Source: The Guardian | Big Ben with notebook image via Shutterstock

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Not surprised the usual MS haters (users who never, ever post anything sincerely positive about MS - or maybe 99% of the time) are here supporting this move. Hate to mention names, but I'm referring to Brony, Sonne, and TsarNikky as some examples. Open source is great, but hearing the same negativistic attitudes towards MS just because of pure dislike is as bad as hearing constant Google/Apple haters.

No criticism from them that Google Docs isn't technically open source though...

As another poster above said, "this is a ploy to get the licence costs down."

I wouldn't have put it quite like that myself, but this is clearly political manoeuvring on behalf of the Cabinet Office, just to let Microsoft know that the UK Government are willing to look at alternatives should the need arise.

The UK Government has, for years, had hundreds, if not thousands, of different individual agreements with Microsoft, often set up at the Departmental level. For years, the Government has been trying to reconcile these agreements and migrate to an overarching framework contract - essentially using their buying power to secure better pricing. And that is a good thing for the taxpayer.

That is what this article is about - it is absolutely not a declaration that the Government is moving to Google Docs or some open source product. At the moment, they are far too heavily invested in Microsoft technologies (including using Exchange for their secure email system) for it to make any technical or commercial sense.

Finally there's the security element of it. You can debate all day about the merits of open vs closed source in relation to security but GCHQ and it's department definitely have a "better the devil you know" attitude towards vendor selection. I don't believe they would recommend a move away from Microsoft.

That's what my five years in Central Government IT tells me.

Edited by Garry, Jan 30 2014, 2:17am :

I'm not sure why some people hate Office so much.

I get if you prefer an open source option and you want the cost savings, but why trash using Office?

I see people here that seem to be so against anyone using Office products when I've had really good experiences with Office products at home and in business. Office 365 has continued that good experience. None of that means other options are terrible and I'm sure some people will prefer how other options work.

As far as the UK's choice, they need to do what works best for them. I just hope that whoever is advising them is fairly weighing all the options and not just jumping on a bandwagon.

The true fact is that several government agencies already are using an alternative to MS Office. I know that exists some bad cases where they turned back to Office (Munich) but they are simple exceptions.
However, the major problem is to break the inertia.

Have fun! We've heard this old chestnut before, and know how it ends. It's disheartening and yet somehow comforting to know that government is as inept all around the world as it is here in the States!

Will moving off the Windows platform be next? Yes, Office pricing is borderline rapacious. If they are running Windows-7, Windows-9 will be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to seriously consider leaving Windows OS for something else.

This is gonna reverberate throughout the UK creating pockets of a domino effect. The thing is, not every business and user will follow suit, which will eventually create interoperability problems. Can Microsoft stem this? Well, they need to do something about it and I believe the best way is to make licensing way more simple, drop the premium it charges, give away Office for little or nothing to non-profits and even some Government institutions such as schools. In this day and age, if you want loyalty, it comes at a cost, sometimes that cost is free.

They already offer it cheap as dirt to state schools, can't really complain at between £1.50 - £3 a license. This is true for all their products, it's what lets us run enterprise software like SCCM for next to nothing.

Judging by recent UK Government projects, they'll probably spend more on open source than they do with Microsoft. Every system they've put in usually ends up being scrapped and costing Billions.

The same government still using windows xp machines. They are just tight and i am 100% that figure is just made up the government have a way with swindling numbers and hiding money here.

I have a friend in office who HAS to order DVD-R's from one place they cant just get them from the shop despite them being cheaper. He said he was paying over £100 for the DVD-R's (100 discs). The company they get them from (well have to get them from) is surprise surprise owned by one of those in power...

Corrupt system much?

Microsoft is/can be pricey and why people are considering other options. Used to be MS was the end all beat all only viable option out there. Not anymore, regardless of what you think about competing companies.

its like driving a car. some people are ok driving a beater, to save money, but you're going to have a lot of breakdowns,and you wouldn't want to be caught dead in it.

Open source has its place. It its not like its crapware or anything like that. Certain people/companies can benefit from it. But its up to the company/person to make sure it is right for them.

My company is evaluating Google Docs which everyone in IT is against 110 percent. But it is upper management that is evaluating it for $$$ reasons and is basically leaving the rest of IT out of it. Which will not go over well if they decide to go the Google docs route.

I don't really care which software they use I care what format they use. This isn't so much of a problem now we have docx however a decade ago it was a pain to work with doc files outside of the Microsoft world. Still I would prefer they make documents available in totally open formats as well as docx and pdf. To be honest there isn't really a valid reason not to use XML and XSLT to make them super easy to work with.

And if you read the article, you'd realise why. They were using outdated OpenOffice software (3.2.1) alongside Microsoft Office 2000, and complained about conversion of documents between the two.

They put all the onus on outdated FOSS software to read, write, and convert proprietary MS document formats when what they should have done was standardise on OpenDocument like what the UK government is proposing. OpenDocument is the native format for many Office suites now, it's an ISO standard, and even Microsoft Office now supports it. Office 2000 however doesn't.

It's documented here:
http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/76811.html

And if you want a german city that did it the right way, look no further than Munich.

..said,
"Freiburg has been using OpenOffice and Microsoft Office 2000 side-by-side since 2007 and has been very restrictive issuing licences of new Microsoft Office suites. Since then, the city noticed that it has been far from ideal to use only OpenOffice for digital correspondence. Microsoft Office for instance is the standard for external communication, the council said.

I'm not sure if you missed the part about external communication, fact still remains that Open Office, Libre Office are not only limited ( esp. Excel ) in what it can do but the comparability is also poor. Newer versions can of OpenOffice and Libre can open Office formats but it handles it in a very terrible way.

jrtorrents said,

I'm not sure if you missed the part about external communication

What they're talking about is file formats. They were using Office 2000 produced proprietary formats as standard, meaning they expected an out-of-date Open Office to edit, open and save in that same format. When they ran into compatibility problems, they blamed the FOSS software, not the fact that they were using proprietary file formats from an old version of MS Office.

It's completely the wrong way around as that blog I linked to states. They should have standardised on the OpenDocument format, which can then be used by every office suite and utility out there including GoogleDocs, LibreOffice, Lotus, GnomeOffice, KDEOffice, and even recent versions of MS Office.

jrtorrents said,

fact still remains that Open Office, Libre Office are not only limited ( esp. Excel )

The limitations they were complaining about were because they were using a very old version of OpenOffice, and upgrading would have solved that issue. They didn't upgrade for free, and instead decided to waste germany tax payer money on more proprietary software and formats.

jrtorrents said,

in what it can do but the comparability is also poor. Newer versions can of OpenOffice and Libre can open Office formats but it handles it in a very terrible way.

LibreOffice doesn't need to open MS file formats. It can create, edit, and open an ISO standard called OpenDocument, which is its native file format.

Expecting FOSS software to work exclusively on MS proprietary file formats is why Freiburg failed. There's no excuse for using MS formats these days. Even MS office can open OpenDocument.

simplezz said,
LibreOffice doesn't need to open MS file formats. It can create, edit, and open an ISO standard called OpenDocument, which is its native file format.

You're not reading , are you ? Did you miss the point about "External communication"?
If municipalities are communicating internally and they've all agree to use Open Source format ( OTD etc) then there will be less of a problem .. ( aside the obvious fact that Libre office/Open Office have a ton missing features) .

The problem is that there is a lot of external communication most of which are in Proprietary Microsoft formats ( .doc/ppt/xls etc) ( because most companies and individuals use MS Office). Open Office /Libre office promises to handle these file formats well but in reality it does a very poor job at it, even in their most recent versions. This is where the problem is !

jrtorrents said,

You're not reading , are you ? Did you miss the point about "External communication"?

I read it clearly. They were using Office 2000 formats both internally and externally as exemplified by the statement:

Employees had trouble with documents that were formatted in a seemingly complete random way when opened in another office suite. There were also conversion problems between the presentation programs Power Point and Impress.

It's clear from that statement that they were importing, writing, editing, and saving in MS file formats. And this was on out-of-date software. They didn't even consider using ODF as a format standard. It's equivalent to buying old MS office software for all employees, then telling them to only work with ODF files. Then after experiencing compatibility / formatting problems when opening the files in LibreOffice, proceeding to blame Microsoft and MS Office as poorly implemented software. It's ludicrous.

And as the article I posted pointed out, Freiburg refused to update their OpenOffice software, which would have improved MS Office compatibility. So instead of updating, they just threw away all that work and money and went back to paying hefty licence fees. If I was a tax payer in that region, I would be seething with the complete lack of frugality shown by them.

jrtorrents said,

The problem is that there is a lot of external communication most of which are in Proprietary Microsoft formats ( .doc/ppt/xls etc)

There doesn't have to be. PDF, and ODF are readable almost universally. There's no excuse for using MS proprietary formats.

jrtorrents said,

( because most companies and individuals use MS Office).

Companies perhaps, but of the individuals claim I'm disposed toward incredulity. Again it certainly doesn't preclude said companies from opening ODF or PDF documents.

jrtorrents said,

Open Office /Libre office promises to handle these file formats well but in reality it does a very poor job at it, even in their most recent versions. This is where the problem is !

There will always be incompatibilities in places because proprietary formats are designed to prevent compatibility with competing systems. That's why governments shouldn't use them. ODF and PDF satisfy the need for universal access without vendor lock-in, and that's what Freiburg should have standardised on. The fact that they encountered problems with MS proprietary formats just intensifies that argument. They'd have problems migrating to any non-MS ecosystem regardless of whether it was FOSS based or not if they continue to depend on Microsoft proprietary formats.

simplezz said,

.. How do you store Spreadsheets and presentation in pdf and edit them in I future ?

I shouldn't even be wasting time arguing with you in this...

There doesn't have to be. PDF, and ODF are readable almost universally. There's no excuse for using MS proprietary formats.


Companies perhaps, but of the individuals claim I'm disposed toward incredulity. Again it certainly doesn't preclude said companies from opening ODF or PDF documents.


There will always be incompatibilities in places because proprietary formats are designed to prevent compatibility with competing systems. That's why governments shouldn't use them. ODF and PDF satisfy the need for universal access without vendor lock-in, and that's what Freiburg should have standardised on. The fact that they encountered problems with MS proprietary formats just intensifies that argument. They'd have problems migrating to any non-MS ecosystem regardless of whether it was FOSS based or not if they continue to depend on Microsoft proprietary formats.


This is just another example of people who make decisions without thinking things through completely. You get what you pay for and they will be sorry after they are finished switching over. I will never understand why anyone uses a product that the company making the product makes money selling you advertisements.

-adrian- said,
maybe reduce the costs in the royal family department - but well.

The Royal family is a great business for UK...

Fritzly said,

The Royal family is a great business for UK...

It's a great business for the Royal family, not the UK, who has to foot the bill to fund their lavish lifestyles.

The fallacy that the royals make more money for the UK than they use is exactly the same as the one that it's more expensive to switch from MS software because of 'retraining' costs. Don't buy into the royalist propaganda. We could open up all those castles and all of Buckingham palace to tourists and make a hell of a lot more than we do now.

Vive la république as far as I'm concerned.

Isn' t Buckingham Palace already open to tourists? I remember when, many years ago because I was nineteen, was in Cambridge studying English and I went to London and visited the Palace. Besides do not think that having a President is cheaper....

Fritzly said,
Isn' t Buckingham Palace already open to tourists?

Some of it is.

Fritzly said,

Besides do not think that having a President is cheaper....

Oh I agree. Except we have both. We have the expense of a prime minister / government as well as the monarchy.

Microsoft is already Microsoft. Sure they had their fair share of attacks and all. Goodluck on using an "open-source" solutions.

arachnoid said,
It might be just a ploy to get the license price down

More likely the ministers are waiting for their gifts to arrive. In a country where the ministry of defence pays £20 for a single light bulb, the license prices never go down.

arachnoid said,
It might be just a ploy to get the license price down

... and MS would be dumb if it got trapped by such cheap ploy.

I think is a good move. Microsoft have to came to earth and realize this prices are abusive.

Germany are changing to open source software. Also NSA is one of the reasons...

Well - by Germany you mean some cities and by changing you mean the employees hate the open office solution.. right? by NSA you probably mean the BND who happily trades data with the NSA

tsi said,
I think is a good move. Microsoft have to came to earth and realize this prices are abusive.

Germany are changing to open source software. Also NSA is one of the reasons...

I take it you haven't seen the price comparisons between google docs and office 365?

tsi said,
it depends of the usage. lack of features to do basic things?

If you only need additional features a very small amount of the time, you still need them. When making policy that will effect all sectors of a government infrastructure you need to think about all the possibilities, you need to think about scale, about supporting the deployment, about redeployment options and updates, about staff training and support, about user experience.

Sorry I have nothing against open source software, but I feel that the people that champion it for all occasions are blind to certain realities and just want people to use it for whatever personal reason they may have.

Oh and another thing, I have tried open source office solutions from time to time, from libre to open office and each time I have ended up banging my head against the wall just trying to do simple tasks that I take for granted with MS office.

These features save time, make using them easier and simpler and its also what people are used to and like, when you look at the grand scheme of things a license for office per user against their yearly salary is a pittance, and if that person can get more done in the same time and is more efficient it is worth it.

Throw in the lower costs for big contracts like this and it gets even less of an issue.

The big numbers quoted here are simply a case of big numbers of licenses, I have dealt with plenty of customers that wanted to move to the greener grass of google docs with its lovely flowery prices and meadows full of cost savings, only to realise the nightmare they unleashed onto their IT dept or the costs that their support increased due to increased demand (user issues). They all have switched back.

ok just installed, opened writer and started to create a document.

Instant issue, in word I have a few styles saved that can be applied to any new or existing document, any way of using these?

I cant even see a way to save 'styles' as I can in word.

Google docs is not free for governments. they are about the same price office 365 vs google docs. Sounds to me they are just waiting for a deal from Microsoft.

majortom1981 said,
Google docs is not free for governments. they are about the same price office 365 vs google docs. Sounds to me they are just waiting for a deal from Microsoft.

Agreed, but lets say there is some form of idiocy going on here high up and someone is sold on the idea of free open source, it will end in tears. And if they have some strange idea of google docs being on par and/or cheaper they will have a nasty surprise.

duddit2 said,

training and support?

What about it? Oracle supports OpenOffice. And there's plenty of training and support for Libre Office too.

duddit2 said,

Oh and the lack of features.

What are these so called features that Libre Office is missing that are essential for governments to function? My guess is you won't respond. Office suites haven't added anything significant since 2000.

For 99% of people and businesses, Libre Office / Google Docs is more than good enough. For those 1% like you, you're welcome to pay annual license fees to them so you can get the latest Metro-esque version.

Then explain that neither OpenOffice OR LibreOffice has an e-mail application. As even Microsoft has said, the biggest reason that Office is the defined standard across Corporate and Government Planet is Outlook - not Word. Two major NEW features in Outlook (neither involves the Ribbon - which Outlook gained in 2010) are plug-and-go POP3 support (new in 2010, along with a native x64 version), and plug-and-go IMAP4 support (new in 2013, along with several new plug-ins for Outlook 2013, in both x32 and x64 iterations). Why is plug-and-go IMAP4 support critical? Surprisingly, it's GMail - it easily has the quirkiest settings of any IMAP4 provider. Outlook makes adding GMail (or any IMAP4 provider) as easy as adding a POP3 account - name so much as ONE other-mail application that does so. (The closest I've seen so far is Apple Mail.)

PGHammer said,
Then explain that neither OpenOffice OR LibreOffice has an e-mail application.

I'm assuming because there are already so many out there that do the job that creating yet another one would be pointless. Evolution, Thunderbird, Web based like Gmail etc: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_email_clients

The reason why MS includes Outlook is to lock the customer into the Exchange / MS server ecosystem.

simplezz said,

What about it? Oracle supports OpenOffice. And there's plenty of training and support for Libre Office too.


What are these so called features that Libre Office is missing that are essential for governments to function? My guess is you won't respond. Office suites haven't added anything significant since 2000.

For 99% of people and businesses, Libre Office / Google Docs is more than good enough. For those 1% like you, you're welcome to pay annual license fees to them so you can get the latest Metro-esque version.

I'll respond, but whats the point? You have your head so far up the ideological open source idea that nothing I will say will make any difference.

I work in It, I see people day to day, I train them, help them and support them, I don't expect you and your ideology to understand, but people know office and a lot of people use the extra features office gives because it saves time, and time in business is money.

I would have responded with a much more polite answer if you would have hidden your contempt a little better, we could even have debated, ooohhhhhhhh

The quoted passages also read like Francis Maude hasn't a clue IT wise - since when did using Microsoft Office FORCE all receiptants of your documents to be using the same?

Sure, not all documents travel well (to eg. OpenOffice, Apple's iLife) but very many do, and Microsoft's Web Apps are far better than Google's.

Just think of the retraining that's going to be involved, that £200m over 3 years for MS Office is starting to look extremely cheap! (considering the 5 digit plus number of users) ;-)

Yes you most definitely should evaluate products from the whole market (and choose the best). But, not buying proprietary products just because they are is EQUALLY bad as sticking to the one provider.

As usual, those in charge don't have a clue! ;-)

Yep, typical stupid knee jerk "let's save some money" government action. Probably some idiotic minister with a Samsung Galaxy, little IT knowledge and a hatred for MS. I bet IT admins all across the UK government are crying into their tea today.

I know of quite a few firms who've made this switch, found it ended up costing them even more thanks to having to retrain staff and pay multiple companies for support, and ended up moving back to MS Office.

Love it or hate it, it's the business standard for a damned good reason.

Yes, we've seen this before so many times. The argument is that the software is completely free, and the companies should just hire a couple of (or more) devs to maintain the code and implement features on request. The problem is that those devs have to be really good coders to implement anything good in a reasonable amount of time, and that most big companies/municipalities/states need some kind of support agreement, which usually cost the same as a license. In addition to retraining as you said, there's problems with the lack of features for power users, which makes them inefficient, which equates to an even higher cost.

If they ditch support and just go with a community edition though, then maybe... (but probably not).

They should just go with Office 365 instead. I bet those 2003 licenses are expensive, so it will probably save them some money aswell.

McKay said,
They'd have to retrain people to use newer versions of Office too.

Yes, the have, but for the minor changes. However, the learning curve is bigger when you introduce a brand new office suite; let along deal with compatibility issues in and out of office.

RommelS said,

Yes, the have, but for the minor changes. However, the learning curve is bigger when you introduce a brand new office suite; let along deal with compatibility issues in and out of office.

90% of the Ministry of Defences Office 2003 course is learning which functions are in which menu. These all change in 2007 onwards.

McKay said,

90% of the Ministry of Defences Office 2003 course is learning which functions are in which menu. These all change in 2007 onwards.

...and do you think that MS was not ready for that? I work for a company that has thousand employees all over the world, and they all managed to get used with the ribbon in no time because MS provided our company a tutorial on how to use and find the functionality in ribbon. Then again, if that is all you are worried about, that has nothing compare to the headache of losing formats when they interact outside of their network.

pantera9 said,
They should just go with Office 365 instead. I bet those 2003 licenses are expensive, so it will probably save them some money aswell.

Hahaha what, once you've bought office 2003, you own a license for it for a lifetime, you don't have to pay yearly to use it (like you do with office 365).

FloatingFatMan said,
I know of quite a few firms who've made this switch, found it ended up costing them even more thanks to having to retrain staff and pay multiple companies for support, and ended up moving back to MS Office.

That's a fallacy espoused by incumbents like Microsoft who spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt concerning the costs of switching from them.

The truth is, every new version of MS Office, Windows etc requires retraining. In fact, some changes like the ribbon, or Metro are so foreign and unfamiliar to users that they'll likely be quicker to adapt to Libre Office and desktop Linux because they have a known paradigm.

Once the cost of retraining staff on MS software upgrades, multiple license cycles, and antivirus / malware costs are accounted for, the prospect of going FOSS is greatly desirable.

FloatingFatMan said,

Love it or hate it, it's the business standard for a damned good reason.

There's no such thing as a business standard. There's only entrenched procurement procedures and luddite attitudes to change from IT departments whose skills are exclusively Microsoft software focused.

Unfortunately today, it requires high up decisions to make this happen because of the degree of entrenchment and opposition to change. I'm not holding my breath either with the UK government. A few well placed words *donations*, and some greasing of the wheels, and they'll be back paying MS a kings ransom for the newest and shiniest from them, along with all the retraining costs with it. It's happened before, and will doubtless happen again. Governments are renowned for wasting money.

Depends on what applicatons, or features, of Office they use - thanks to new features in the last two versions of Office applications, a few third-party tools got mooted (I no longer have to convert between Word and either ODF or PDF, for example - I can write directly in either format from within Word).

FloatingFatMan said,
The only fallacy here, is that FOSS saves you money.

Not according to Munich:
http://www.techrepublic.com/ar...-microsoft-out-of-the-city/

It's also not just the direct savings like License fees, Antivirus software, etc. It's also the freedom from vendor lock-in caused by using proprietary software like what Microsoft produces. It means in the future, and business or government can migrate between different offerings with little obstruction.

FloatingFatMan said,

If that were true, explain why so many that went to it, go back.

I haven't heard of many. I've heard of a few like Freiburg, who did things wrong from the start: http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/76811.html, but mostly I've heard success stories like Munich.

Sometimes Microsoft will pay government or businesses to go back to MS software, and they'll fall for it. Or you'll have people on the inside trying to derail things because their jobs rely on Microsoft software, but if implemented correctly, great savings can be made, both in the short and long terms.

simplezz said,

If you read the rest of my post you'd have seen that I specifically mentioned Freiburg and provided a link to an article that explains why they did things wrong from the start

Oh, I've read it, but I'm considering the source of your link, and the information in the article that is best be describe as speculation, so, don't consider everyone to buy it.

Bad move. I remember reading something on the internet about some school switching to open-source software, and it did not turn out well. I believe this is true, as you don't get real support and all the possible best features you can get with open software. There's a reason why Office is a paid app.

pantera9 said,
Office 2003 is actually very capable and feature rich, and is the version of Office that all the clones are copying.

It's also irritatingly unstable and buggy when you have to support it everyday.

smooth_criminal1990 said,

It's also irritatingly unstable and buggy when you have to support it everyday.

But it still works better than most open source office suites.

“So we have been talking to users about the problems they face when they read or work with our documents - and we have been inviting ideas from experts on how to solve these challenges.”


The funny thing about this is that they are bringing in "experts" that at the end of the day they pay high fees and then end up paying the same or more. And worse off consider the cost of training in new software and the learning curve there is to it. But lets not forget how this attempt has failed many that tried. But anyways what the heck is an "expert" to them?

It would be funny to see a movie where a US agency working to save the world sends a file to a UK agency and then they can't even open a word document properly... lol

smooth_criminal1990 said,

It's also irritatingly unstable and buggy when you have to support it everyday.

Funny, I've been using office 2003 for years without a single problem, nor crash, at home and in education. Which is more than can be said for office 2008 or whatever it was for mac whereby it was completely broken.

nickcruz said,
“So we have been talking to users about the problems they face when they read or work with our documents - and we have been inviting ideas from experts on how to solve these challenges.”


The funny thing about this is that they are bringing in "experts" that at the end of the day they pay high fees and then end up paying the same or more.
...
...

"If you're not part of the solution, there's good money to be made prolonging the problem." -Despair

Have you ever had to support an organisation using Open Office? You couldn't pay me enough to ever do that again. Works fine until users with Open Office, Microsoft Office, and Google Docs start sharing fines. Then welcome to the world of "my file is corrupt, how dare you tell me you can't retrieve it for me with all the recent changes".

McKay said,
Given that the Government is on Office 2003, I'm sure free equivalents have overtaken it.

Absolutely not true. 'The Government' consists of dozens of different departments of various sizes, and also includes many, many arms-length-bodies. Each of these departments and ALBs has their own IT department with procurement guidance being offered by the Cabinet Office and security guidance by GCHQ.

While I'm sure there are still Goverment Departments running Office 2003, there are also many on 2007 and 2010 and a few on 2013.

Source: Real Life

McKay said,
Given that the Government is on Office 2003, I'm sure free equivalents have overtaken it.
False. Because those open source options can't beat the IP protected capabilities of Office, no matter which year you have.

All they have to do is use Office 365. Its cheaper than the license for Office 2014 and you still get a lot of the functional.

Europe as a whole has bee trying to get away from Microsoft stuff for years. The fact is many parts of companies or governments could drop Office. But to have some with and some without creates a problem. Its basically you have to be all in or all out.

As long as the clients you work with use it, you have no choice but too. Because when they send you documents made with Office that have extended formatting, formulas and more that those free option break, they will have no choice but to go back.

The UK is living a pipe dream.