[Fsf-friends] Re: [eGovINDIA] Public documents should be in a Open Format

Joe Steeve joe_steeve@antispam.org
Thu Nov 3 22:02:13 IST 2005

Note: I have CCed this email to the mailing list of `Free Software
Foundation`, so that you can get more inputs on the same issue.

eGov INDIA <egovindia at yahoo.com> writes:
> Can you write exactly some of the things need to be adopted by
> GOI to get all documents in OPEN STANDARD DOCUMENT. Which
> programs are vailable on OSS and other formats.

The most commonly used open format for publishing documents is the
PDF format. It was formerly proprietary but has become open. HTML
is yet another format. Recently, some corporate and community
initiatives have brought about the Open Document Format (ODF)
standard., which aims at stardizing the document format and
keeping it open across all platforms.

One approach would be to use the OpenOffice.org (OO.o). OO.o is a
popular 'Free/Libre Open Source' Office suite which can handle a
number of open formats including the ODF (since version 2.0)
onwards. The OO.o has support to convert documents written in the
ODF to HTML, PDF and other supported formats. This would be as
easy as typing the content in Microsoft Word and then doing a
`Save As` to various types of outputs.

The above approach would be suitable for a technically
not-so-capable person to publish the document in a open format. 

A more professional (and recommended) approach would be to use the
LaTeX document preparation system. This would require a person
skilled in LaTeX. In this model, the document is typed using any
text editor and is similar to HTML. Then the LaTeX document is
processed using the 'latex' program with suitable commandline
parameters to convert it to a PDF or HTML file. The LaTeX document
preparation model has been standardised, and there are various
implementations to process the LaTeX files., and covert them to
required forms. 'MikTex' is a Free Software latex implemention on
Windows. A LaTeX implementation is a vital part of every GNU/Linux
distribution. The presentation for all related documents can be
customised using one single 'style file'.

LaTeX is basically a macro language built over the TeX typesetting
system written by Donald E Knuth., and is used around the world
for publications of all kinds varying from books, letters,
technical documents, etc.

So., what can be done is.,

 - A style file should be created to give a common layout and
   look-and-feel for all the related documents.

 - The documents should be written using the LaTeX document
   preparation model.

 - Then using programs like 'pdflatex', 'latex' and related
   tools., the LaTeX documents can be converted to PDF, HTML, DVI
   and other such presentable formats.

I would personally recommend the second approach (of using LaTeX),
since it is more flexible towards the maintenance of the documents
in the longer run., as all the actual source files would be just
plain text.

Thanks Sincerely,


> Joe Steeve <joe_steeve at gmx.net> wrote:
> This is in similar note to the post by Mr.Kush Singh. The
> Constitution of India (COI), is available at the
> http://lawmin.nic.in/coi.htm.  However, the files are available
> only the Microsoft Word format.
> The COI and other related documents should be easily reachable
> by all citizens of the country. The Microsoft Word Document
> format is a proprietary format which is controlled by Microsoft
> alone. And, Microsoft has changed the format a number of times
> from MS Office 97 to the latest Office XP. Each, time it has
> forced the users to move to the new format because of features
> and incompatibility reasons. Microsoft office is an expensive
> software. Its standard edition costs close to Rs15,000., and
> another low priced student/teacher edition costs somewhere near
> Rs7000. That cost is still high for many people of India even
> when they can afford a computer and Internet. The pattern in
> which the change of format over the various versions of
> Microsoft Word clearly signals the business motive of the
> company without regards to its user base. These are some of the
> reasons for the recent choice of Open Document format in the
> state of Massachusetts in the USA. And., I'm sure many other
> governments would follow.
> When important documents such as the COI are released in a
> proprietary format like the Word Document format, it becomes
> inaccessible to a large scale of citizens. And., morover it is
> shows a government bias towards a private body.
> Hence, it is very necessary that all government documents be
> provided in Open Formats such as PDF, OpenDocument, XML, HTML,
> etc. I was happy to see some recent documents
> (http://lawmin.nic.in/legislative/Bills_RS_Bud2005.htm),
> (http://lawmin.nic.in/legislative/Bills_LS_Bud2005.htm), being
> published as a PDF. But all the older documents need to be
> converted to a Open Format. Also., it would be really nice if
> these documents where available for online browsing in HTML
> format. I know it is hard to maintain two formats., but there
> are ways to do this using Free Software tools (using LaTeX,
> TeXinfo, ..).
> I hope someone in the related departments would take note of
> this. Thank you.

.O. A proud GNU user
OOO http://www.joesteeve.org/
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