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RMS: Putting an End to Word Attachments

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the stamping-out-the-impediments dept.

GNU is Not Unix 1022

sombragris writes "I've spotted in NewsForge a very interesting editorial by none other than RMS himself on the subject of getting rid of those annoying MS Word attachment that people send. The essay is worth thinking and doubtless worth implementing." I've found that KWord and Abiword both did a fine job of reading Word files - it's the being able to Save As Word where things get messy.

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1022 comments

fp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823834)

second nondescript fp of the day

Word! (-1)

Genghis Troll (158585) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823836)

putting an end to RMS.

JA IFA (-1)

K0R$ h4x0r ru1z (533828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823837)

January 10, 2002
Ashcroft Ignores First Amendment
by Christina E. Wells

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, Attorney General John Ashcroft blasted those who criticized his attempts to expand his law-enforcement powers rapidly. He claimed that his critics ``aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity, . . . diminish our resolve . . . [and] give pause to our friends.''
This comment was ill-advised and outrageous. His statement is the language of treason or sedition and should not be used lightly, especially when the accused offenses arise out of political criticism.

The Sedition Act of 1798 provided for criminal punishment of any statement (even if true) tending to bring certain government officials into disrepute. In other words, it provided for punishment of those who criticized the government.

Controversial even at the time, the act has been soundly rejected in this century as inconsistent with the First Amendment's protection of free expression.

The Supreme Court has recognized that the First Amendment, in large part, was meant to break away from the English tradition of punishing criticism of the government. In its words, ``debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and . . . may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.''

If the First Amendment stands for anything, it is that the government cannot shut down criticism of officials discharging their public duties. Ashcroft knows this. Every law student (and a good number of undergraduates) with only a passing knowledge of constitutional law knows this. Yet, the attorney general pressed on with his statements, presumably to silence his critics.

Ashcroft has not violated his critics' First Amendment rights. Other than his ill-advised comments, there has been no official government action taken to silence his critics. But his words, spoken as the country's chief legal officer and heard by a public legitimately frightened for its safety, could (and were probably meant to) have a chilling effect on his critics. Nobody wants to appear to be disloyal or a traitor. Thus, Ashcroft's words, while not violating the letter of the law, surely violate its spirit.

Ashcroft's words also highlight his fundamental misunderstanding of the values underlying the First Amendment. If he is right, and his critics' statements aid and abet the enemy, they will do so because those words will have persuaded the American public that Ashcroft has overstepped his bounds. The power of speech to persuade is its gift. It is not an evil. This is especially true in a democratic form of government where officials serve the public; they do not rule it.

Americans do not live in a monarchy, and Ashcroft is not our king. As the ultimate rulers in our democratic form of government, we Americans have the freedom to criticize our elected or appointed representatives.

This is not just a right; it is what makes this country great.

Copyright 2002 Miami Herald

unfortunate ? (4, Insightful)

hogsback (548721) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823846)

Most computer users use Microsoft Word. That is unfortunate for them, because Word is proprietary software, denying its users the freedom to study, change, copy, and redistribute it

Most Word users, I expect, want to write letters to their mothers, not recompile the application.

Re:unfortunate ? (-1)

Genghis Troll (158585) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823860)

That is unfortunate for them, because software exists only to be studied, changed, copied, and redistributed.

Re:unfortunate ? (0)

cyclist1200 (513080) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823882)

RMS has proven many times he doesn't know shit about users.

Try StarOffice or OpenOffice.

Thats not the problem (4, Insightful)

clump (60191) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823901)

Most Word users, I expect, want to write letters to their mothers, not recompile the application.

You don't need email with Word attachments. The problem is having such a format be so widespead that it interferes with normal communication, like email. I am a UNIX network engineer that has been bitten *many* times by the 'please send a resume as a Word doc'. That is difficult if you don't run Windows at all.

Though I generally feel RMS isn't an effective speaker, he definitely has a point here. Honestly, do people really need Word for the majority of text documents? Is everyone sending emails with tabular, image-embedded documents? I think not.

Re:Thats not the problem (-1, Troll)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823956)

So how exactly is it different for someone to ask you to send them an email as a word document and you asking someone to send you an email as text? Seems like an analogous situation to me.

Simple. (2, Insightful)

clump (60191) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823995)

So how exactly is it different for someone to ask you to send them an email as a word document and you asking someone to send you an email as text?

Its really two situations. Both parties can read text while both parties may not be able to read .DOC files. Think of it as appealing to a lower common denominator, when the 'greater denominator' offers no way for you to join.

Re:Thats not the problem (2, Insightful)

naasking (94116) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824016)

Oh, you mean besides the fact that EVERYONE can read and write text?

Same with my car (2, Redundant)

DrCode (95839) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823934)

I just want to drive, not mess with the engine. That doesn't mean I'd accept a car with a locked hood that could only be opened by the dealer.

Re:unfortunate ? (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823951)

Most Word users, I expect, want to write letters to their mothers, not recompile the application.
So you think that most Linux users say "oh what the hell, I'm gonna recompile my entire system after I've gotten everything stable?" Well, think again, buddy. About the only time I compile stuff is when I get a new version that doesn't have binaries pre-made. After I've gotten everything installed and stable, I just use it. Linux is about choice - you can recompile if you want to, but there's no one pointing a gun to your head saying you have to.

Re:unfortunate ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823986)

The poster doesn't think that - RMS does!
Read the article and the comment again.

Re:unfortunate ? (4, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823960)

Most Word users, I expect, want to write letters to their mothers, not recompile the application.

I would think that most Word users don't want their mother to catch a bunch of viruses. What kind of scumbag would train their mother to accept Word documents?!

Re:unfortunate ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2824010)

Most people writing a letter to their mother print out the letter and put it in an envelope.
That doesn't mean they should stop using Word because RMS says so.

one way to make them stop (3, Interesting)

edgarde (22267) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823970)

The moderator of a Yahoo club to which I belong sent (as a standard new member greeting) some poetry as an MS-Word attachment. He was quite surprised when I replied with the name of the company he was working at when he typed it ( File | Properties | Summary ), and explained how to save as text.

He quickly changed the greeting to a .TXT

Later, on my advice, he made it an .RTF so he could font & format. This created sufficient confusion among other recipients that he had to change it back.

Red Herring (5, Insightful)

elefantstn (195873) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823984)

This is a meaningless point. The fact that a specific subset of users, however large, cannot get at the source has no bearing on its importance. Even though I personally can look at and understand [some] source, I would never be able to look at it all. The value is that I know that there are multiple people looking at and improving the source that I'm not looking at, and doing it from an end-user perspective, not a software-producer perspective. I may not be a kernel hacker, but someone else with my hardware is, and I benefit from the improvements he or she makes to the kernel. "I don't recompile applications" is not a reason to not use open source software.

Re:Red Herring (2)

jgerman (106518) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824012)

I may not be a kernel hacker, but someone else with my hardware is, and I benefit from the improvements he or she makes to the kernel. "I don't recompile applications" is not a reason to not use open source software.


Excellent, excellent point, and one which I rarely, if ever have seen brought up. Here's hoping someone with mod points takes you up a couple of notches.

.doc is a de facto standard (2, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823847)

Whatever you think of microsoft, .doc has become a de facto document standard, like .pdf. Pitting open source software against .doc risks marginalization. Maybe the effort should go into producing a good, free implementation of a document editor to produce .doc documents, thereby using .doc against microsoft?

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (4, Insightful)

Buck2 (50253) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823910)

Open-source is already marginalized.

Word documents, along with other proprietary formats, especially ones which may or may not be able to be opened with future software, are a bad idea for information transfer.

It's a stupid, terrible, dumb standard which Microsoft revels in because it helps to ensure their position and sales.

It behooves everyone who uses computers to compose documents and share information to break the current standard ... not just Open Source advocates.

This, I believe, is RMS's point. The fact that he has Open Source advocates' ears is a fact of reality, not the ideal.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2, Insightful)

hyphen_holt (415384) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823917)

I don't know how many times I've heard this argument. I remember when Word Perfect was the standard. And there were others before that.
No matter how much it may seem that .doc is the standard, (and it may very well be at this time), it will lose it's glory. And other formats will go on to replace it.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823925)

Hi if you can win my game I'll give you $10 oh and I won't tell you the rules and I'll change the rules as I see fit but feel free to play anyways.

That has been in progress for awhile now what do you think kword, staroffice and abiword are all trying to do?.. and as good a goal as they all have it's rather hard to conform to something that's at least partially designed to not allow others to play on their field.

I don't know why people keep thinking it would be an easy thing to do.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (4, Redundant)

Eimi Metamorphoumai (18738) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823933)

.doc isn't a single format, though. If .doc were what it were as of WinWord 2.0, we'd have no problems by now. But every version the .doc format changes, and everyone runs around trying to reverse engineer it YET AGAIN. And if you finish that, they'll do it again. I have nothing against de facto standards, but a "standard" that can be changed at any arbitrary point, by a single company (and frequently is) isn't much of a standard at all.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (5, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823938)

No.

RMS' main problem with Word format is that it is non-standard, and most people probably don't care. But that isn't the only problem that format has. The other major problem it has is the same thing you'll find in most MS formats: it contains too much power. In order to support Word format in a Word-compatable way, you have to support the scripting language and virus capability too.

And that is a Bad Thing, even if you don't give a damn about open vs closed formats. Getting people off Word format is a good idea for everyone except for anti-virus software vendors.

So if RMS' goal seems unrealistic because it's too idealistic, by all means, just be pragmatic instead. And the pragmatic thing to do is say goodbye to MS Word's file format.

We have been trying to do that for years. (1)

clump (60191) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823939)

Maybe the effort should go into producing a good, free implementation of a document editor to produce .doc documents...

One of the reasons .DOC is a de facto standard is that we gladly try our best to reproduce it. *Ahem* StarOffice, Corel, Lotus.... Word-processor writers are bent on reinventing a wheel that they can't even see.

Letting people know that we can't view a document isn't a bad idea. Letting people know that they may not need a full-blown processor just to type a few notes isn't a bad idea either.

Re:We have been trying to do that for years. (2, Flamebait)

dinivin (444905) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823992)

Letting people know that we can't view a document isn't a bad idea.

Well, except for the fact that it makes us look like incompetent computer users and annoys our clients who now have to take the extra time required to open up the document, save out as text, or paste the text directly into an e-mail message

It's quite obvious that RMS has no experience in the real world where a client says "You must meet the following qualifications to do work with us: (Begin list that includes having MS Word)"

Dinivin

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2)

MCZapf (218870) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823942)

It may be a de facto standard, but it is a closed standard. Being closed makes it hard to be useful as a standard, don't you think? AFAIK, everyone else who uses the Word .doc format(s) in an application had to reverse-engineer the .doc format first. And no one has reverse-engineered it all yet.

I don't much care if Word is closed-source or not. But I sure think it would be nice if the file format were an open format. If that were the case, other applications could easily be written to use it.

Even better would be if Microsoft used an open format that was agreed upon by some standards-making body - instead of constantly changing its own "standard" to try and stay ahead of the competition.

And as long as I'm dreaming, I'd like a million dollars.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (1)

heyeq (317933) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823953)

I'm not sure I agree.
By creating an app that allows users to create Word.doc documents you are presuming that you've managed to decipher the Word format. As soon as this has occurred MS will go about re-securing their format, spurring the (presumably) open source decoding effort to re-decipher it. This becomes a vicious cycle that turns faster and faster without any possible positive outcome.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (4, Insightful)

MikeTheYak (123496) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823965)

How can it be a standard when nobody knows what it is and it keeps changing? If it were a standard, then there would already be "good, free implementations." Instead, software developers, open source and otherwise, have to keep writing almost-good-enough filters to load and save the documents. While RMS' political arguments typically make my eyes glaze over, it's stupid to author a document without taking into consideration whether the recipient can read it.

While the premise of your argument may be unfortunately true, the suggestion simply won't work because Microsoft won't let it work. That's why they keep changing the format and don't publish the spec in the first place.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (1)

good-n-nappy (412814) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823969)

This is actually a pretty good idea. I have noticed that I haven't gotten any warnings when saving/opening between my versions of Office XP and Office 2000. This suggests that there are either no modifications or a small number of modifications in the file format between these two versione. Maybe there is some hope of stabilization in the bloat.

I should also point out that converting most people to a non-Word format is pretty hopeless. What good is PDF for example if I'm collaboratively editing a document. This seems like the wrong battle to fight.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2, Informative)

SoftwareJuggler (184815) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823971)

At the risk of being accused of being a company shill...

Adobe has a little advertised web service [adobe.com] that will convert a variety of documents formats, including MS Office, to PDF files. Cost is 9.95 a month, but the 5 conversion freebie trial which is controlled by email address.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2)

zmooc (33175) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823982)

The problem with that is that there IS no .doc standard; they change it over and over, thereby forcing it's users to continuously buy new versions of an incredibly expensive product that only runs on incredibly expensive platforms. It also keeps any other players away from the market and that abridges our freedom to choose our own software to an unacceptable extent; I don't want to spend more than 1000 EURO on software so I can read/write an occasional document. And I only see these prices go up so if we don't take action now, in a few years we may well be spending a lot more money every year just to type a few lousy documents in a word-processor that has 10 times more features than the average user will ever use but which every user has to pay for over and over and over and....

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2, Informative)

Ranger Rick (197) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823989)

The difference is, PDF is perfectly readable with a number of tools, free and Free and not, without issues.

Unless things have changed, nothing reads word docs correctly all of the time...

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (1)

mshiltonj (220311) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823998)

Maybe the effort should go into producing a good, free implementation of a document editor to produce .doc documents, thereby using .doc against microsoft?

This is not a good strategy. Your free implemenation is only good until MS releases the next version of Word, and puts the OSS community perpetually in the role of playing catch-up.

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2)

bfree (113420) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823999)

Which version of .doc is a standard? Word95/97/2000/2002 (never minds the earlier ones)

Re:.doc is a de facto standard (2)

Soko (17987) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824007)

Great. So you're just willing to hand Microsoft control over a de facto standard? What if Word 2003 adds ROT13 to the default format, they claim it's "encrypted" and use the DCMA against anyone who tries to "reverse engineer" thier format?

This is what scares me about any company having thier Intellectual Propertey declared a de facto standard - they can hold my data hostage. I'm hoping that some one somewhere will fully reverse engineer the .doc format, so I can get at my data no matter what. I don't have the technical chops to do this myself and am therefore vulnerable to being (in this case) Microsoft's bitch.

It's not about proprietay vs. Open Source, it's about one being in control of one's own information.

Soko

Spot on, Dicky! (-1, Troll)

The_Messenger (110966) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823849)

I agree. We should instead be using the universal document format, the format which is usable by all people, and on all machines. The original and best format.

I am, of course, referring to PDF.

Re:Spot on, Dicky! (1)

demaria (122790) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823869)

Don't you mean ascii txt? ;)

Sad... (-1)

Al Gore (152558) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823935)

There was a time when this post would have been moderated as "funny." Today, anything which does not strictly fall within the bounds of the Cheap Software mindset is a "troll;" gone are the hilarious posts of yesteryear. Also gone are informative side conversations, which are today moderated as "offtopic." Slashdot has become an unnatural and illogical forum, a forum in which it is impossble to hold natural discussion because of moderators' zeal. (Actually, today it is more likely that a Slashdot janitor moderated The_Messenger down, since he is marked as an Enemy and thus a fair target for the janitors' limitless pool of mod points.) Come, fellow Slashdotters! Return to USENET and AOL Chatrooms! Return to IRC and ICQ! Slashdot died a year ago, yet the janitors have flaunted the corpse ever since, reanimating it with their NAZI censorship. Today will be remembered as the day that Slashdot realized it was dead. Readers will leave, advertising revenue will plummet, and the janitors will finally be forced to comprehend their ignorance. Good luck getting real jobs, guys!

Re:Spot on, Dicky! (1)

jsin (141879) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823977)

That would be great if you could edit it, or even compose it without a piece of software that costs hundreds of dollars...

Not First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823856)

This is not the first post so you may ignore it.

Microsoft XML (1)

batboy78 (255178) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823859)

Oh I long for the days when XML will be used for all file formats, and the universe will be whole........

[OT] your sig (1)

Trracer (210292) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823895)

It's "I'm the operator with my pocket calculator "

Wow...! (2, Redundant)

Ranger Rick (197) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823865)

...an editorial from RMS that I not only agree with, but also one in which he doesn't sound like a raving madman. =)

While often I agree with him, half the time I can't stand the way he browbeats you with how wrong you are. I think this article was well-written and reasonable...

Scary. =)

RMS spouting off (as usual) (1, Insightful)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823867)

What does RMS have against MS Word? (sarcasm, people)

Honestly, the people that attach word docs are usually the people that give you a blank stare when you say words like 'linux' and 'unix'. They're the people that work in accounting and marketing that only know how to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Exchange.
If you write a polite reply, asking them (usually putting in instructions) to cut-and-paste the word doc into exchange, and send it in normal text, and an explanation why, they usually comply.

Honestly, what does RMS expect to accomplish with this editorial?
The people that read it don't send word attachments anyway.

Going in and telling people to "Stop sending documents in Word!" Is not giving people the 'choice' on what wordprocessor to use. Isn't he supposed to support the 'choice', or just his idea??

Re:RMS spouting off (as usual) (3, Troll)

demaria (122790) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823885)

"Honestly, the people that attach word docs are usually the people that give you a blank stare when you say words like 'linux' and 'unix'"

I attach word documents every day. My organization has standardizied on Word, and for good reason too. It works decently, and can read the notes and information vendors send me. The above generalization is so far removed from reality its silly.

Forcing the choice on others (2)

bstadil (7110) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823896)

Is not giving people the 'choice' on what wordprocessor to use
No, nobody is arguing the fact they can't use Word, The issue is they are forcing a "choice" on the receiver, by sending the Doc format. If MS opened the Doc formats and perfect filters were available then Maybe you have a point.

Re:Forcing the choice on others (1)

Ravensfire (209905) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823928)

Ahh, so instead you want to force a choice on the sender, by requiring them to NOT use Word.

That's fair. Sure it is ....

Re:Forcing the choice on others (1)

ix42 (222898) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823946)

Word can save as plain text. For that matter, Word can save as HTML. So who's forcing you to not use Word?

Re:Forcing the choice on others (1)

Ravensfire (209905) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823985)

Simple - most users of Word don't know and don't care that it can save in different formats. They save the document. Period. They don't change the format, they don't WANT to change the format. It's something trivial to them that they don't understand and don't care to.

Word has quite a few functions that people never use, this is another. How often do you save a document in something other than the default?

Re:Forcing the choice on others (1)

issachar (170323) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824008)

That's not true at all,

I'm repeating my own post here, but MS-Word is perfectly capable of saving things in other formats. My copy is set to save everything in .rtf by default. I have yet to lose any formatting, and as an added bonus, my documents can't be infected with Macro viruses. That's one the main selling points I use when telling other people about this. (That, and the fact that .rtf's work perfectly with MS-Word)

.

Re:RMS spouting off (as usual) (4, Insightful)

foo fighter (151863) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823994)

It's obvious you didn't read the article.

RMS is suggesting that supporters of free software, when they receive an attachment in Microsoft Word format, request the attachment be sent again in a non-proprietary format such as HTML or ASCII text. He provides three boilerplate replies, mostly polite and one includes instuctions.

No where in the article does he ask people to stop using Word, nor does his suggestion limit their choice of wordprocessors.

In his suggested reply text, their is only a passing mention of GNU/Linux in the first and no mentions of Linux/UNIX in the other two.

Please take your ignorant posts elsewhere.

I like egg and cheese (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823872)

yet slashdot is still shit. conundrum 1st class!

Education (3, Interesting)

RedOregon (161027) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823873)

Hopefully we can show enough people that the complexity of Word is very rarely used. Maybe mass installations of the windows version of vim will help :)

I think what is required is mass education... every time some nitnoid sends you an Email with a Word document attached, and nothing in the Word document but text, respond! Don't just shake your head, think "what an idiot", and read it... respond to the Email!

Bernie will sue (5, Funny)

CrazyClimber (469251) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823877)

How can we get rid of Word attachments without incurring the wrath or Bernie Shifman? If he can't send out his resume, he'll probably sue...

Wishful Thinking (2, Redundant)

rute_1 (190676) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823883)

I just read the article. Now that is out right wishful thinking. Let's see, if I was to reply with his examples to messages containing Word attachments my boss would tell me to find another company to work for:)

A couple of points:

1. There are plenty of Office Suites out there that understand the Word Format. (StarOffice and Koffice to name two.)

2. Microsoft has already stated they are switching to the non-proprietary XML format for their standard document format.

3. While I do like GPL and Freeware I also believe that we need to have comercialware. Let's see, if all software was free then why would anyone in their right mind want to spend money to study programming at a an instituion? Why get a degree in software engineering?

Re:Wishful Thinking (2)

MikeTheYak (123496) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824011)

1. There are plenty of Office Suites out there that understand the Word Format. (StarOffice and Koffice to name two.)

Most of the Word format, anyway.

2. Microsoft has already stated they are switching to the non-proprietary XML format for their standard document format.

I'll believe it when I see it.

3. While I do like GPL and Freeware I also believe that we need to have comercialware. Let's see, if all software was free then why would anyone in their right mind want to spend money to study programming at a an instituion? Why get a degree in software engineering?

Depends on the person, but preferably not to sit around reverse-engineering proprietary formats rather than creating something useful.

KWord? (1)

tzanger (1575) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823886)

Yeah, KWord works halfassed with .doc, but I can't get it to read an .rtf for the life of me. This is unfortunate because I believe that .rtf would work a lot better for getting formatting and such correct.

Open Source binaries for windows. (1)

hogsback (548721) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823888)


Many Open Source applications don't come with binaries for windows.

I know I can compile the app, but my grandmother can't.

If there is a wonderful new open-source document format, it's still useless if (for idealogical reasons) the editor isn't available on Windows.

because the mob is polite... (3, Funny)

eddy the lip (20794) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823890)

We may be able to give "don't send Word format" the status of netiquette, if we start systematically raising the issue with everyone who sends us Word files.

What, you mean completely ignored?

Save a HTML (4, Informative)

Godeke (32895) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823891)

When I heard that Word would support saving to HTML I was very happy. Then I saw the HTML that was output and was depressed again. Dreamweaver does have a neat feature - "clean up Word HTML" which makes them a little more acceptable, but it is a nightmare to edit in HTML anything that was generated in Word.

It's a shame, as XHTML and CSS allows for very clean separation of content from presentation... maybe someday they will hit critical mass and it will be the accepted form of "rich" content presentation. But for now I have to slog through RTF, Word, Powerpoint (ugh) and Excel documents that are not converted cleanly to the office suites on Linux.

Re:Save a HTML (1)

zangdesign (462534) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823923)

As much as I love Dreamweaver, the "clean up Word HTML" feature is pretty half-assed. It still leaves the inline CSS stuff in place, which is usually what needs to be gotten rid of.

PDF? (4, Insightful)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823892)

Isn't PDF a secret format too, eventhough there are readers for linux?

Re:PDF? (1)

eddy the lip (20794) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823936)

nope, it's a published standard, just proprietary. there are (enormously thick) books published by adobe detailing it.

Re:PDF? (2, Insightful)

Beetjebrak (545819) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823996)

As far as I know pdf isn't secret, but only adobe may change it since they invented pdf. I like PDF a lot because it allow me to send a digital file to just about any print shop to be reproduced on paper and it won't be different from what I see on screen. I work as a graphics designer and have sent hundreds of PDF's off to dozens of printing companies, and never once had a single problem with it. MS Word's DOC format is a sure-fire way to instant hell!

Re:PDF? (4, Informative)

BacOs (33082) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824002)

No - there're several specification documents freely available from Adobe: [adobe.com]

Scroll down to the File Format Specification section.

Doc 2 html (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823897)

It may be easy (as he says) to convert doc to html, but you can lose formatting. Auto-numbered lists, especially, seem to get munged in the conversion.

Re:Doc 2 html (2)

bfree (113420) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823967)

So, if I send you a Word97 doc and you have Word2002 (is that what it's called?) do you think it will look the same? If I send you my Standard A4 formatted document and you print it on your Standard Letter printer do you think it will look the same (or even appear the same on screen) even IF you have the same version of word? Within a corporate network Word docs are fine as you are going to be able to sort it out simply, once it leaves your own network you are trying to force your software choices on another and in the process generating more revenue for MS (how many unopenable Word2002 docs will it take before your Word2000 gets upgraded?). Using Word as a data exchange fprmat is INSANE! Use pdf/ps/jpeg if formating matters, use html or text if it doesn't.

Why pdf? (1)

jonestor (443666) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823902)

I'm glad he mentioned html and txt formats, but why pdf? Aren't pdfs more bloated than docs? This is of course refering to his example 3.

What do you live for? You live to help others. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823903)

With the holiday season upon us, our hearts and minds go out to those less fortunate than ourselves. Helping at this time of the year is a well-established tradition, a common reality embodied in the message of Christmas which lends itself to compassion no matter what one's faith. This year the desire to help is all the more keenly felt, compounded by the urgencies of our post-September 11 world.
People need help. You want to help. But it is not enough to just want to help, because that good intention is often closely followed by the question, "What can I do?"
You can help and you can make a difference. We offer services that teach how to offer practical help--help for life's trials, for those disasters we all face from time to time--big and small.
Whatever the crisis, catastrophe, problem--something CAN be done about it.
You can help and DO something about it.
In doing so, you will discover the true meaning of the season and its goodwill--that providing effective and valuable help benefits both the giver and receiver. And the best reward is that you take your helping skills into a brighter New Year.
For more information contact the Church of Scientology nearest to you.

L.Ron Hubbard

StarOffice (0)

djhankb (254226) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823908)

I work in a mostly MS shop. I use linux primarilly.
Staroffice or OpenOffice are perfect for working with most MS-Office Docs, Word compatibility is 100%, as well as their spreadsheet program (sorry Gnumeric)
when the 6.0 final release is out, i personally feel that it's a best bet for working in a MS shop.
-h

Personal versus Political (5, Insightful)

beth_linker (210498) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823911)

I don't think that calling Word "a secret proprietary format" (true as it may be) will make much sense to the average Windows user.

A more general issue is that all of the examples provided are political in nature.

Could one accomplish something similar with a message like "I'm sorry but I'm unable to read documents in Microsoft Word format because I use Linux. Please send your document in a format that I can read, such as ASCII Text or PDF."

Educating people about the political issues surrounding proprietary document formats isn't always appropriate in a business situation. If I need to ask a customer to use a format other than Word, I also need to be able to do it in a non-alienating way. I think that Stallman offers some good suggestions, but the specific examples he provides wouldn't work well in some social contexts.

Why? (1)

Ravensfire (209905) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823912)

This was an interesting editorial, but the thought that kept going through my head was why?

Why ask people to change away from something THEY are comfortable with? Why ask a casual user to use a feature in Word that they probably don't know how to use? (The Save As option - most people don't know it's there, or what it does).

What is the normal tool used for creating text documents - Word. Right or wrong, it's there. A sophisticated user probably understands the optiosn available, and the audience of their message and chooses an appropriate format. A casual user, which is the majority of users, doesn't care, doesn't WANT to care, and more importantly, SHOULDN'T care about the format.

These people want to share something they have. They don't want to have to learn a new program or feature to do it - they just want it to happen.

If I send something out in a Word document, there's probably a good reason for it. Getting a reply back from someone that says "Please send this in another format" is not going to endear that person to me. I don't really worry about whether that person PREFERS a certain format or not - after all, if they sent that reply to me, they don't care what I might prefer.

-- Ravensre

To reply to Hemos (1, Informative)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823913)

I use Abiword to save to Word format all the time, and have never had a problem. Since Version 0.95 came out, that is. Also has lots of other niphty features. My wife and my godmother both stick to Word like postage stamps, but I use of AbiWord has never hampered my communicating with them.

Truly amazing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823918)

Perhaps the most impressive of RMS's talents is his ability to find ever new and larger giants (as opposed to windmills) to tilt at. Does he really think that his editorial will do any good? It strikes me as the free software equivalent of saying, "if we would all just be nice to each other, there would be no war and no crime." That's undeniably true, but it just ain't gonna happen.

Instead of getting on your soapbox about Word files, a much more productive approach would be to support the development and extensive testing of import filters for Word files. I have a lot of experience in this area, and I can tell you without hesitation that correctly importing Word files of arbitrary complexity is a far more difficult task than even most programmers know. The Word format has got to be one of the most Byzantine file formats ever created, especially when you start adding embedded or linked graphics.

OK , now what? (3, Funny)

crotherm (160925) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823920)

I just cut and pasted the email reply suggestions into MSWord. Now how do I send it out?

Don't tell me to stop using MS Word... (1, Flamebait)

cperciva (102828) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823922)

... until you can provide me with an alternative. Windows 2000, MS Office, and Eudora meet my needs quite well; I tried Star Office about a year ago, and based on that experience I'm not going to try again very soon.

Rant and rave all you like about "free software", "open standards", and "GNU/linux", but I have work to do.

Re:Don't tell me to stop using MS Word... (2, Informative)

LeftHanded (160472) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823990)

The letters in the article asked for alternative formats, which can be created with MS-Word: text, HTML [w3c.org] , and PDF [adobe.com] . The third can be created within MS-Word if you have Adobe's Acrobat [adobe.com] software. (not just the reader; the distiller).

A Lost Cause? (1)

snookerdoodle (123851) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823926)

As one who has felt this same way for many years, I wish I thought it would work.

If it weren't sad, it would be humorous: we have folks who maintain Lotus Notes databases with various internal policies and it was like pulling teeth to get them to stop attaching their policies as Word docs. Notes, of course, can't index or search their text now and that was the only way I got them to stop - I proved that their new addition was invisible to anyone searching for it.

Sadly, I've capitulated - I have Word on my home peecee - and don't think there's much we can do to stop this other than pray that they convert Word's format to xml (not that I'm gonna hold my breath, but MS does seem to looooove xml!).

Mark

We first need ... (5, Insightful)

bockman (104837) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823929)

... a commonly accepted free standard for _editable_ documents.

That is, it should be possible to read and edit the same document with different open-source tools [since there is no chance that we all use the same] without loosing neither text, nor formatting or meta information (like indexes, cross-references, review marks etc...).

microsoft office compatibility (1)

Theolojin (102108) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823931)

i work in a very microsoft-oriented company, with windows and office everywhere. however, i use staroffice/openoffice for word processing and creating/editing spreadsheets. in my experience, staroffice's filters for ms word and ms excel are excellent. i have yet to be given a complex spreadsheet that i could not open with staroffice, change, and save as an excel file.

how's this for a solution? (5, Interesting)

issachar (170323) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823937)

There's a very simple way of changing MS-Word's default format to something other than .doc format. I use Word a fair bit, and my copy is set to automatically save everything in rich text format. I have yet to encounter ANY formatting that can't be saved in that format. (Maybe because I don't write Macro viruses).

Explain to people that if they do this, their documents can be read by MANY more people, and that it doesn't affect them at all because MS-Word can read .rtf documents seamlessly. (It just treats them like regular .doc files). Don't forget to explain that occaisionally the system will complain that "some formatting might be lost", but that's not really true. It's only the very strange formatting that no one ever uses that would be lost. This has been good enough for all the non-technical people I've explained this to.

.

We use HTML for our business documents (2)

JMZero (449047) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823941)

Most of our secretarial force now has only an HTML based Word Processor.

Biggest problem: there's no good way to handle tabbing (tables are fine but inconvenient, anything more fancy like auto-resizing spans screw up). Secretaries like being able to quickly due dot-lead tabs and such to make quick columns. HTML as implemented in IE (which we have to support so clients can view documents), doesn't have good enough tabs.

The other problem (no good concept of page, which makes documents for printing hard to edit), we've been able to solve (well enough for us) in our custom editor.

Word is EVIL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823943)

As this article [google.com] notes, if you store your data in a propriatary format, the vendor of the software in essence owns your document. You're locked into the upgrade cycle. There ought to be a law that government and universities be foreced to use data formats based on open standards.

Misreading the title (4, Funny)

Pac (9516) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823947)

I've read the title too quick, and for a moment I thought Good Old Rick had decided to go all way and become a desert hermit, as in "RMS: Putting an End to World Attachments"

CmdrTaco, You are a Fag (-1, Offtopic)

PageLengtheningPoste (549929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823957)

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word converters (1)

mydigitalself (472203) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823958)

we write document comparison software that is used in the legal sector. we are busy investigating a tool by a company called Stellent [stellent.com] . their tool, HTML Export, runs on just about any platform and can convert a few hundred document types to html.

there are a number of others [google.co.uk] out there as well that can do the same job.

maybe richard stallman should get off his high-horse of accusing users like my mother, who know no better, of being an inconvenient nusance. and integrate some conversion tool with procmail or something.

so an email comes through, you check the attachment mime type, you see its a .doc. you take the file, run it through the conversion utility and rewrite the mail body using an .HTML attachment.

there problem solved.
i'm sorry but there is no way that a minority of linux users can convert the majority of windows users to change the way they work.

opening word files with Abi and K (1)

npietraniec (519210) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823959)

I've found that KWord and Abiword both did a fine job of reading Word files - it's the being able to Save As Word where things get messy.

Not me, I've had a horrible time trying to get Abiword and Kword to display my files correctly. If you're working with a lot of .doc files, you'd go through hell working without MS Word. The 2 word processors do a fine job with thier own formats, but .doc is still unusable.

UK monoploies commision (1)

SomethingOrOther (521702) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823961)


A friend of mine e-mailed the monopolies and merger commision (UK body designed to make sure no company abuses there monopoly) regarding what he belived was unfair use of videopluss codes

How did the impartial, UK government monopolies commision reply to his e-mail?
You guessed it
In propriatry M$ word format!!!

Give as good as you get. (4, Interesting)

Snowfox (34467) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823973)

I like responding to Word documents by picking another esoteric file format. Even EPS is as good as opaque to most users.

When they reply with a "huh?" then I share some of my views on proprietary and non-standard text formats and suggest RTF when sharing docs with others. With simpler users, I'll just simplify, explaining that "RTF is the form you use when emailing documents, DOC is mostly meant for local editing before you 'publish' by printing or saving in a public format."

Until they experience the annoyance of unavailable or cyrptic data first hand, most folks will write you off as a quack for complaining. They just can't imagine a world where e-mail attachments don't open nicely so long as you know how to double-click.

CmdrTaco, You are a Fag (-1, Troll)

PageLengtheningPoste (549929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823978)

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No problem saving as .doc (2, Informative)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 12 years ago | (#2823979)

I've found that KWord and Abiword both did a fine job of reading Word files - it's the being able to Save As Word where things get messy.

That's just the opposite of my experience with StarOffice. I've opened .doc files from the network, with "track changes" enabled, edited them in StarOffice Writer, and then saved them. None of my coworkers were ever the wiser.

I also print a lot of homework at work. I've saved my files as Word 2000 files, opened them on Word 2000, and printed without a problem.

Sore Losers (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2823987)

Microsoft Word owns your sorry text editor asses! Why can't you Linux dorks just accept the fact that Microsoft has totally beaten your lame excuse for an operating system! Shave your silly beards and join the winning team, you freaks.

CmdrtTaco is retarded!!! (-1, Offtopic)

CmderTaco (533794) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824003)

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No need to be a prick (3, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824004)

First, Hemos and everyone else saying the same thing, the question isn't whether one can open Word files -- RMS's point is that we should discourage the use of .doc, or free software developers will be perpetually chasing Microsoft's newest version.

That said, Stallman is proposing a particularly counterproductive way to go about it. When I receive a file I can't open, I send a polite message to the effect of, "I can't read that file format. Please save the file in RTF format (Select "Save As.." from the File menu, and then choose Rich Text) and resend it. In the future, please send me files that way, so I'll be able to open them right away."

That has the advantages of a) not confusing the secretary or supplier who doesn't even know that there are different file formats with some political rant about Kenya, the Microsoft monopoly, bytes and freedom, b) doesn't convince a more knowledgeable recipient that Linux users are rabid, socially dysfunctional loons and c) is the way a decent human being behaves.

Richard Stallman probably doesn't realize that when the rest of us receive a Word attachment, it's not from a reporter seeking our views on Free Software and appreciating his tantrums as a little added color for his article, it's from a coworker just doing what any normal computer user does.

RMS and Word Documents (1)

zangdesign (462534) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824009)

Maybe it's just my perverse sense of humor, but I really wish I had some vital document that he couldn't live without, just so I could send it to him Word format.

And then refuse to provide another format.

Look, like it or not, Word has become a standard for business, just as Photoshop is a standard in the graphic design industry. It's going to take more than just politics and wishful thinking to change it. When a format arises that provides more capability than the Word format, then start talking replacement.

Until then, there's plenty of other brick walls to ram your head against.

Best Format? (1)

Swaffs (470184) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824014)

So what's the best format if you're going to avoid Word. Recently I've started using .rtf for sending files that are too complicated for .txt, but what else is out there?

What he fails to realize... (-1, Redundant)

SlaveTroll (535702) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824015)

RMS forgets to realize that not everyone is a geek...

Something that a lot of these Linux folks don't understand is that people do NOT care to learn how a computer works or how to set it up or how to make it do anything else besides what they want it to do. People use computers as a TOOL, just like a stove or a microwave. I believe that this is one of the main reasons that *nix users find so much distain for Microsoft's products and thier vision of what a computer is supposed to do. It somehow takes away from their l33t status as a basement-based computer geek. What? Regular people are using using a computer in their day to day lives? You have to be a geeko like me to use a computer!?!

The sad fact is, computer's are becoming a part of average people's lives in the same way that all other technological advancements have been integrated into culture since the beginning of humanity. The only people that know how a television works are TV repairmen and the people who build them (hobbiests aside). Likewise, people who only know how a computer works are those that work on them or build them.

Quite simply, Microsoft developed a product that regular people could learn how to use in a relatively short amount of time with the least effort possible. It's just like people learning how to use a remote control or drive a car. So, in this light, the true computer geek's world has been tainted by the "sheep of the masses." So be it. Because even if they are sheep, they make the world turn. They have all of the money, they make everything happen. How many flames, posts, articles have you read that say, "I like Linux but I program with MS technology...hey I gotta put food on the table."

Technology adapts to people, not the other way around.

Not just GNU/Linux (1)

jfmiller (119037) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824017)

This is an issue that effects more that just those people using GNU/Linux. Our office used WordPerfect (form Corel at the moment) but we are slowly being forced to move to Word because it was named as the CA state standard for document exchange. I won't go into everything I don't like about Word but the lack of reveal codes and picture placement issues are a major problem.

The real problem is that "No one ever got fired for choosing MS" (recent IIS issues not withstanding) therefore MS can sell the least effective wordprocessor on the market and still have a >50% market share.

Normally I tend to think that RMS's writing are a bit extreme. This time I can agree whole heartedly and without reservation.

JFMILLER

if only... (2)

mirko (198274) | more than 12 years ago | (#2824020)

..."they" zipped their word files before sending them...
no way.
Acorn User will be happy to use !AntiWord [demon.nl] to convert these into formatted text, at least. (BTW, it works on most platforms ;-)
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