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

From: Chris Croughton
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] E-envoy and Open file formats
Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2003 20:01:27 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.2.5i

On Sun, Aug 03, 2003 at 04:52:52PM +0100, ian wrote:

> On Sun, 2003-08-03 at 15:38, Mike Taylor wrote:
> >  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.
> So why don't you just use MS Office and receive their MS Office
> documents? Seems pretty straight forward. Unless of course you believe
> its worth making an effort to get people to use free software. In that
> position, I'd download it for them and cut some CDs and give it to them
> that way. In fact I give CDs like that out all the time so that 1 of 16
> million downloads turns into scores of installations.

They won't use it, in general.  I know, I've done that for quite a few
people and when I send them an OO document they say they can't open it.
"But I gave you the software!"  "It's too big / doesn't work 'properly'
(i.e. the same as MS Office) / I never needed to use it do I deleted it
/ etc."

> > 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.
> ROFL. You are off into the realms of fantasy here. Where did I or anyone
> suggest any of that?

You, a few messages back:

> 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.

In other words, the stock Free Software Advocate reply "If you don't
like it you can write it yourself, you have the source".  Which totally
misses the point that most people, even most programmers, /can't/ write
it themselves, even if they understand it they don't have the man-years
to devote to it just for one document that they want to read.

> Do you explain to them the details of .doc formats?

No, because they have something supplied with their computer which can
handle it.

> So why do they need to know about XML and programming? Just get yourself
> a copy of MS Office and receive their docs if that's what you think best
> serves their interest, or cut them some OO.o discs and give them some
> support to install it - the strength of OO.o is that it allows exactly
> the type of people you are talking about to get a toe in the water with
> free software without drowning.

Except that they don't have the time or inclination to do that either.
Or the means, I tried OO on my 'doze machine before giving it to my
sister, and it's worse than xemacs in the resources it used, I had to
get rid of it (and since her machine is lower spec. than mine it wasn't
wort hher using it).  I seldom use it even on my GNU/Linux boxen,
because it's so big and slow.

> > (Off-topic: how do you do this?  I couldn't find PDF in my OO
> > word-processor's "Save As" dialogue box.)
> You need version 1.1. Its downloadable now release candidate 2 from
> www.openoffice.org.

1.1 is a release /candidate/?  Or do you mean that it's in what will be
1.1 when it is released?  With downloads of that size few people will
get pre-release versions.

> I'll send it you on a CD if you have problems
> downloading large files. In the best spirit of free software OO.org is
> continually under development and new versions and updates are released
> regularly. 1.1 can also export flash and the plan is for support for SVG
> so that we can have an open web based standard for vector graphics too.
> Its faster, has support for macro recording and has better MS
> filters.Ok, its still to an extent bloatware but if you want a free
> software replacement for MS Office, its the nearest you are going to get
> and it gets nearer and in some aspects better with each release.

Are these release candidates available in binary, or only in source?
And if in binary, for how many different systems?  Few people will
bother compiling something like that from source at all often (heck, I
won't and I /like/ being able to compile from source, first thing I do
with a new Debian installation is compile a recent kernel so that it
fits my configuration -- it also makes a good memory test).

Go for a text format.  Unpatented (and unpatentable), every editor can
read and write it, every OS comes with free utilities to read, edit and
write it (even 'doze users are familiar with Notepad).  It's small, and
can be views on any platform which has a display (most of my systems do
not run X).  OK, provide the fancy formats as well for those who want
them, but for things like filling in forms provide just plain text.
That's what I give to job agencies for my CV, they can import it to Word
or whatever and doll it up however they like but my original is plain
ASCII text as edited by vi/vim.

Chris C

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