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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 15:04:57 +0100

On Sun, 2003-08-03 at 13:46, Ralph Corderoy wrote:

> Plan 9 and RISC OS are two that spring to mind.  Both are happy with
> PDF.
> > 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? 
> I don't understand what you mean by that last sentence.  I'm complaining
> that OO file format instead of Word's doc file format is an improvement,
> but not a great one.

I think its a massive one because you have the option to use that format
freely in any software you choose subject to the usual constraints of
free software. If you want it, you might have to implement it. The file
format is the issue and I can't see any reason why apps running on RISC
OS or any other platform can't import OO.org files with all the
attributes if people want them and are prepared to do some work. They
can also export to the format to the degree that the programmers want to
support. If MS patent parts of the .doc format you are simply stuffed.

> It's clear from the rest of your reply that you're talking about
> read/write document formats.  I wasn't.  I was only talking about
> read-only formats.  There are still a high number of Word and Excel
> files for download from gov.uk without PDF equivalents.  Given your
> original email to the list
>     "Just had an E-mail from the E-envoy's office after pointing out
>     that just making files available on Gov sites using Word was not on.
>     Encouragingly they said they agreed and were now discussing ways of
>     getting round this. I suggested using OO.org on some test sites and
>     volunteered to convert some files from Word for them if they wanted.
>     "If we can get OO.org versions of files even alongside Word for
>     downloads it will be a big step forward."
> it is never stated that read/write files were the topic under
> discussion.

Apologies, but writing E-mails nearly always leaves out some significant
details :-) I'd go further and say that without an open document format
the current proprietary format will stay dominant and that will mean so
will office and therefore so will Windows. If we want greater choice and
a healthy and flourishing free software environment, changing this
situation is of crucial importance. Makes me wonder whether we shouldn't
have some agreed strategies for the AFFS to improve the environment for
free software. Getting open document formats widespread would be pretty
high up my list of priorities on that.

> > > 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.
> That's unfair.  I was trying to point out that just because someone uses
> Linux it doesn't mean they'll have a large office suite installed.

But equally, I never claimed that was the intention of the post to
specifically help GNU/Linux users. I don't even think its a GNU/Linux
issue, its about making it more likely that free software in the wider
sense can flourish. Apologies if you think I was being unduly critical,
it wasn't the intention.

> > 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/write formats I wish for a move away from MS's formats and
> OASIS seems a good prospect.
> > > 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.
> Careful.  If they pick up that you're just trying to push OO in via a
> back-door rather than improve what they offer for download for the
> general good, it may get their backs up.

If someone has a better idea for an open document standard then I'm all
ears. If OO.o was proprietary or the file formats were some peculiar
closed format I could understand it being a problem. In the
circumstances, whether or not you like OO.o or not, it seems that a
viable strategy to get, for example, increased usage of GNU/Linux at the
desktop is to have ways of making it easy for people to migrate. Same
applies to a lesser extent to RISC OS. The more that happens the better
for everyone whether or not they personally choose to use OO.o. At least
there will be choice.

> > 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.
> BTW, even for read/write documents that they want you to send back, I'd
> still like to see a PDF version since I often want to see what's asked
> for by the form, its length, etc., before bothering, and if PDF is still
> the predominant viewing format then that's most likely to be to hand.

I have no problem with pdf. I would like to see gov docs posted as pdf
and OO.o (Word will be there anyway at least for some time to come)
Since you can export pdf direct from any OO.o app, its pretty trivial to
provide both formats and let people choose which is best for them, but
my main reason for doing this is to provide high profile for an open
format and to start challenging the idea that the only data format that
matters is MS Word.
ian <address@hidden>

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