Google Docs is a great resource for collaborative editing and online document editing, however it has one of the greatest problems of all – it doesn’t support the ISO approved document standard ODF. Which leaves governments, businesses and individuals locked into Microsoft’s .docx format.

Since I have been tracking the development of OOXML, Microsoft’s competing document standard, I am aware of the corruption and bribery that took place to get OOXML to be approved as a standard.

So for obvious reasons I don’t have any admiration for Microsoft’s standard (wht do they even call it a standard when they have more than one?). The sole purpose of that ‘standard’ was to make it harder for governments to adopt ODF, as there is an alternative. ODF meant there could be dozens of 3rd party players who could offer applications and solutions based on ODF cutting Microsoft out, and that’s something Microsoft could not afford as the Office Suite was Microsoft’s #1 cash cow.

So we have a document mess. The bigger problem is that players like Google are not helping. You can talk to any user and he would complain that it’s a disaster to edit OOXML documents in Google docs or in LibreOffice. Google blames it on the victim and says there is no demand for ODF. The question is when a player like Google doesn’t support the standard where will the demand come from? Google could be one of the reasons there is no demand for ODF.

This is what I meant when I said in the title ‘what’s wrong with Google Docs’. Since Google doesn’t seem to have any interest what so ever in pushing ODF, organizations, governments and business who don’t want to use OOXML may look at alternatives. A lot of European governments are already migrating from proprietary solutions to open source and vendor independent solutions.

WebODF is the answer

ownCloud and WebODF offer that solution. WebODF team has announced the release of version 0.5.0 which they say is stable enough to be used for everyday work. OwnCloud offers a great integration with WebODF which allows an ownCloud user to get Google Docs like service running on the users own servers. Both are free and open source solution so anyone can download them for free of cost and install them on their own servers.

What’s WebODF?

The team explains, “WebODF is a JavaScript library that lets you display and edit ODF files in the browser. There is no conversion of ODF to HTML. Since ODF is an XML-based format, you can directly render it in a browser, styled with CSS. This way, no information is lost in translation. Unlike other text editors, WebODF leaves your file structure completely intact.”

While you can get a Google Docs like experience with ownCloud, developers can grab WebODF and integrate in their own applications to offer support for ODF on websites or mobile applications. WebODF team also offers a Firefox extension which allows a user to view ODF files in the browser.

You can get WebODF from here. If you want to see what it is capable of, just try our the demo.

Swapnil Bhartiya
A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005. You can follow him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.