The importance of the Document Liberation Project

Today I would like to focus on a quite interesting project, even though it is rarely spoken of: The Document Liberation Project. The Document Liberation Project is LibreOffice’s sister project and is hosted inside the Document Foundation; it keeps its own distinct goals and ecosystem however. We often think of it as being overly technical to explain, as the project does not provide binaries everyone may download and install on a computer. Let’s describe in a few words what it does. The Document Liberation project aims at developing filters handling various file formats. The output of the project is then reused inside LibreOffice as well as in other Free Software such as (but not limited to) Inkscape, Abiword, etc.Docliberation

Many people have files and documents that are sitting somewhere on their hard drives and that were first generated by an ancient office suite, word processor or spreadsheet application. Most of these file formats were never publicly documented. As a result, people experience vendor lock-in as they are unable to convert them in a stable, supported and open file format they can actually use. In order to solve this conundrum the Document Liberation project has a set of export filters that convert files to ODF, epub and even Abiword format. Its crownjewel, so to speak, is the set of import filters it has been collecting over the years and that it has improved. Those filters range from MS Publisher files to Clarisworks and Apple Keynote and also have many rarely used file formats. Let’s take a look at the list mentioned on the project’s website:

Corel WordPerfect import library.
Corel WordPerfect Graphics import library.
Microsoft Works import library.
A library for import of many legacy Mac document formats.
AbiWord import library.
Corel Draw import library.
Microsoft Publisher import library.
Microsoft Visio import library.
Apple Keynote/Pages/Numbers import library.
Aldus/Macromedia/Adobe FreeHand import library.
A library for import of many e-book formats.
Adobe PageMaker import library.

This list is impressive and keeps growing. One may also notice the usefulness of the project for digital artists and designers. You can help the project in three ways:
* help developing these filters and libraries
* help documenting the formats the project tries to manage
* submit test documents and assess how effective the filters are in real life.

You may of course donate to the Document Foundation as well. The Document Liberation project matters a lot. It matters for many different people and for the ecosystem of desktop software relying on these files, from office suites to graphical design tool and document processors. If you feel like you could help, do not hesitate one bit, your contribution will be much appreciated and you will help liberating the world, one document at a time.

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