Microsoft will issue an update to Office 365 to enhance support for the Open Document Format (ODF) championed by the government, allowing users to export files as ODF regardless of the format they were created in.
In a Microsoft blog post, Jesse Stanchak, Microsoft's community manager, revealed the update will arrive later this year having worked with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to understand its requirements.
"While we already have great ODF support in O365, we’ve worked with GDS to understand the need to be able to create or import a document in another format and export it as ODF 1.2 and will be rolling out this new functionality to Office 365 in May," she said.
"These changes ensure that Microsoft Office 365 will be compliant with the policy for sharing and collaborating on government documents and available for all public sector organisations."
The diverse range of devices and software platforms in use across Whitehall prompted departments to move away from proprietary file formats that can only be accessed with specific applications, such as Microsoft Office, to open formats like ODF.
Using ODF, departments can access and share documents regardless of whether they are using Microsoft, Apple or Android platforms, among others.
Stanchak said Cabinet Officer minister Francis Maude met with Microsoft's UK country manager, Michel Van der Bel, to discuss the company's work on open standards to enable universal document access across government departments.
Maude said the use of ODF will deliver significant savings to the public sector.
"This will give people more choice about the software they use. This supports our digital by default agenda, which is helping save citizens, businesses and taxpayers £1.2bn over this Parliament as part of our long-term economic plan," he said.
The Cabinet Office said government will continue to work with other software suppliers to encourage their adoption of open standards. This includes Google, which has brought forward its planned support for exporting presentations in the open format.
The move to embrace open standards is part of government's wider digital strategy, for which it has adopted a ‘learn by doing' approach.
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