It’s just been announced that all government will be moving to publishing documents in newly agreed open formats. Mike Bracken discusses the reasons for this on the main GDS blog.
What follows is a practical guide to how the new guidelines will affect your publishing to GOV.UK, once your own organisation adopts these standards.
What the standards apply to
The open standards guidelines apply to all new documents published on GOV.UK.
In this context, ‘document’ means something with a narrative – for example, formatted text, images, charts, graphs and presentations.
The standards cover two use types: viewing, and sharing or collaborating.
Documents designed for viewing
The document ‘viewing’ standards apply to documents designed primarily for people to read, rather than to edit or interact with.
Documents for ‘viewing’ must be available in one or both of the following formats:
Documents designed for sharing or collaborating
A separate set of standards applies to documents that users will want to edit.
This type of document must be published in Open Document Format (ODF). The most common examples of this are:
- .odt (OpenDocument Text) for word-processing (text) documents
- .ods (OpenDocument Spreadsheet) for spreadsheets
- .odp (OpenDocument Presentation) for presentations
How and when to publish documents in open formats
The methods used to publish documents – and the timing of the move to open standards for publishing – will differ within every government organisation.
You should therefore expect to get more detailed guidance from your organisation’s Technology Leader and/or IT department in coming weeks about how your publishing will be affected by the move to open standards.
In many cases, though, you’ll already be able to save documents in open formats (eg .pdf, .odt) using your existing publishing tools.
In the short term, you may also want to bring your publishing closer to compliance with the standards by making greater use of the HTML publication format on GOV.UK.
Publishing in proprietary formats
Once open publishing standards are adopted in full by your organisation, no documents should be published in proprietary formats.
The standards do not cover the publication of datasets designed to be readable by external software (for example transport datasets). Our Service Design Manual has informal guidance on the publication of these datasets and open data principles.
Simpler tables, laying out information for presentation – for example the MMO’s list of vessels – are covered by the above standards.
We’ll be publishing further guidance and examples on this in due course.
We’re happy to answer questions about the implications of open standards publishing for GOV.UK here.
If you have any questions about how these standards apply to your organisation, you should speak first to your digital team.