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

From: Mike Taylor
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] E-envoy and Open file formats
Date: Sun, 03 Aug 2003 15:38:12 +0100

> Date: 03 Aug 2003 15:04:57 +0100
> From: ian <address@hidden>
> > 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.

I'm sorry, I can't see this as a remotely practical stance.  The world
breaks into three camps.  A small minority who run free software and
have OpenOffice; another minority, probably somewhat larger, who run
free software but don't have OO; and the other 95% who do all their
work on machines provided by their employers, which have MS-Office on
them.  For that 95% of people, OO files are USELESS.

I run into problems all the time with people in my church sending me
MS-Word files.  If I gave any of these Real People an OO file, they
would be completely nonplussed.  If I told them it was this great open
format which they could read if they were prepared to fetch and
install a 40Mb tarball over their dial-up lines (and learn the subtle
but real differences between it and the office suite they've grown to
know and tolerate over the last few years) they would look at me as
though I'd grown an extra leg and turned bright orange.  "But I
already have a perfectly good office suite!", they'd say.

And let's not even _think_ about how they'd react if I told them it
was a well-defined XML format that they could easily parse themselves
if they'd just take the trouble to learn some programming skills and
download one of the free XML parser toolkits.

> 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.

I absolutely agree that the .doc format (or, I should say, family of
subtly different and mutually incompatible formats) is a hell-spawn
pool of evil incarnate, and must be banished into outer darkness.
However, the OO format is not going to be able to do that.  .doc will
only be supplanted by another format that everyone _already_ has the
necessary tools to read.  That means PDF or HTML.  (Disclaimer: I'm
not sure how completely open PDF is.)

Sorry, but that's the world we live in.

> 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 [...]

(Off-topic: how do you do this?  I couldn't find PDF in my OO
word-processor's "Save As" dialogue box.)

> 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.

It occurs to me to wonder whether a more fruitful strategy might be to
persuade the government to require MS to open up the .doc format with
proper, full documentation.  "It's a million to one chance, but it
might just work."

 _/|_    _______________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor  <address@hidden>  http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "Being well balanced is overrated" -- John Carmack.

Listen to my wife's new CD of kids' music, _Child's Play_, at

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