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Re: [Fsfe-uk] E-envoy and Open file formats

From: ian
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] E-envoy and Open file formats
Date: 03 Aug 2003 11:36:14 +0100

On Sun, 2003-08-03 at 10:37, Ralph Corderoy wrote:
> Hi Mike,
> > Hmm.  I am encouraged by the E-Envoy's response, but I don't see that
> > OO.org files are a step forward at all.  To read them, you need
> > OpenOffice.  But if you have OpenOffice, you can also read MS .doc
> > files.  So a real step forward would be to use a format such as HTML
> > or possibly PDF that _everyone_ can use.
> I have to agree here.  Getting .doc replaced by another format
> understood by a single program, e.g. Open Office, even if that program
> is FLOSS, isn't the answer.  We need formats that are clearly
> documented, and supported on *many* platforms, not just those that Open
> Office runs on.

Have you looked at the OASIS technical committee stuff that is indeed
suggesting the the OO.org format is developed in just this way? See for
example http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-966691.html

BTW, what platform are you using that OO.o doesn't run on? The OO.o
community encourages porting to as many platforms as possible and the
code is open with some support to do it. Maybe you mean file format
rather OO.o itself? 

If not the OO.o file format what do you suggest? Don't say HTML, as that
is a different issue. There is no other document format that has any
real chance of challenging .doc, .xls etc as a standard formats and this
is what this is about. OO.o format is open XML based and freely
available for anyone to use. AFAIK KDE and ABI WORD are likely to adopt
it and probably a number of other free software projects too but that
will take time.

> Besides, I've used Unix for 15 years, and Linux for quite a few.  I
> don't have Open Office installed, nor am I likely to

Well it seems to me that what you are saying is that if it doesn't
affect you personally, its not of benefit to the cause of free software.
>  since I don't need
> it for what I produce.  

But its not about you, its about making progress in promoting free
software as opposed to proprietary. Its not about perfection but
improvement. It is about the bigger picture. Who would you rather
dictate government file formats, Microsoft with .doc or OASIS with a
well documented open standard that your free software project can freely
adopt if it wants to? 

> For read-only documents, PDF would seem to be
> the way to go.

But this isn't about read only documents or even whether downloading
documents for word processors is a sensible thing to do. Its about
taking an opportunity to further the free software cause.

I have just downloaded a Word document from
www.dfes.gov.uk/elearningstrategy/strategy.stm. This is a consultation
document to be filled in and sent back and its in Word format. Yes,
there is a pdf format available but that is useless for filling in a
form. Ok, I can open it in OO.o 1.1 but its not perfect - some of the
paging is not quite right so why should I not be able to use free
software to do this? (Ok, they could have done it as a web page, but
they haven't and this is not an isolated case. I have the specialist
schools application form to fill in for many schools. An 880k Word
document that is 35k when transferred to OO.o and saved.)  How can the
Government justify that it expects me to pay several hundred pounds for
MS Office to take part in their consultation when I could use free
software if they supported open formats? What any individual prefers to
use as their WP is not the issue, the fact that they could use a web
page with back end data base is not the issue,its the principle of Gov
effectively forcing people to use proprietary stuff when there is a
perfectly viable free alternative. Why not just tell them to use a web
page and backend database? Because its in the interest of free software
to get them to promote open document formats. Basic political strategy.
If we are not prepared to see these opportunities and exploit them,
progress is going to be a lot, lot slower.

BTW, I would urge all members of AFFS to send in a response to the
elearning strategy. Open Standards hardly get a mention never mind free
software. Anyone can respond as an individual citizen, but perhaps it
also needs an official AFFS response.

ian <address@hidden>

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