I have been asked by a local court which has recently switched to electronic filing (to save time and trees) to provide some input into a problem:
About half the lawyers in town use Word, and the other half mostly Word Perfect. The court in question uses Word and has used it for 12 years. It does not have funds to purchase licensing for Word Perfect.
Documents presented for filing are presented in PDF format (only). Proposed orders are usually submitted with the document, also in pdf format. However, it would be nice if the Court, on occasion, could edit an order before entering it. For example, instead of "Plaintiff wins," the court might be disposed to say "Plaintiff loses." If it had the ability to edit the proposed order, the Court could occasionally save some time. However, though its staff is forced by the purchasing Gods to use Word, fairness to those who use better or cheaper word processors is the court's goal.
I am thinking of recommending that it accept proposed orders via email in both Word and txt format. Or perhaps Word, txt and odt format. But before recommending odt format, which, I believe, is now used by Open Office, K Word, Abiword, IBM Lotus Symphony, and perhaps others, I would want to be fairly sure that someone could not arbitrarily change the odt format around, making odt files un-usable or un-readable 10 or 50 years from now. I am innocent of knowledge about open source software licensing.
Right now, electronic filing is not mandatory. However, it may become mandatory in a few years. I am therefore also a little concerned that if I recommend Word and txt only, the Court might somehow, someday, be brought into the Microsoft monopoly wars and end up paying damages to European users of, say, Word Perfect.
I will be checking into sources that might educate me about all this in the next few days. Meanwhile, I would most welcome suggestions from anyone.