Subject: GIFs
From: Aaron Lehmann (
Date: Wed May 09 2001 - 21:50:47 CDT

Some of you may "get" what I'm talking about, some may not. In any
case, bear with me...

We have 25 GIFs in AbiWord, all in the documentation. GIF is a
patented format and Unisys extorts royalties for people who want to
write software to write GIFs. See

So what does this mean to us? There are a variety of reasons why I
think we must switch from GIF to another format (PNG would be the
ideal choice):

1) GIF is a mediocre format; PNG is technically superior anyway and
doesn't come with the patent baggage.

2) Some of the screenshots were clearly made on Linux. Since (to my
knowledge) there is no licensed GIF-writing software for Linux, it is
highly likely that these GIFs were made by software without a license.
So? Well, for one thing it means that we owe Unisys about $5k (see

3) Controversially, any data stored in a GIF can be called non-free.
This is because to modify it legally, one would need a license from
Unisys. Distributing non-free images in our documentation undermines
many of our goals.

4) GIF is evil and should not be endorsed by a respectable project
utilizing it.

I have resolved to run ESR's web2png script on the abi/user/wp/help
directory. This script converts GIF files to PNG's, and even fixes
references to them in HTML pages. If anyone has any objections or
suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Below I've included the list of GIF images in the CVS tree. (BTW, Dom,
there are several hundred GIFs in wv that I don't mention here. I hope
you'll take care of that, but I'd be glad to help)


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