Re: and I was called paranoid and FUD-monger...

From: Rui Miguel Seabra (
Date: Wed Sep 03 2003 - 13:00:25 EDT

  • Next message: Dom Lachowicz: "Re: patch: remove unused strings"

    On Wed, 2003-09-03 at 17:19, Dom Lachowicz wrote:
    > Further, what's the purpose of posting information
    > like this here? Can I stop Microsoft? Do I want to
    > try?

    Not you. We.
    Can we stop Microsoft? Of course not.
    Do we want to try? Of course we're unable.

    Are we going to be hurt by their announced changes?
    Certainly so.

    Is this anti-competitive?
    Certainly so.

    Should we put a bag over our heads?
    Certainly not.

    > If and when they change their format, we must
    > adapt or choose to not support it. It's really that
    > simple. We'll deal with it when the time comes. We're
    > not going to remove our existing RTF and DOC filters.

    Of course not, neither do I advocate that. They are important specially
    for interoperability, which is what is at stake here.

    > Any discussion on this topic in an AbiWord context is
    > thus moot and pointless.

    It's as moot as no user using AbiWord since he most likely won't be able
    to read documents send by his familiars, fellow employees or bosses.

    > We advocate "use AbiWord
    > everywhere." Our tune has not changed and will not
    > change. We're doing our part to advocate change,
    > though we may be feeding into the problem by giving
    > people a "crutch to stand on" since we're able to read
    > the DOC format. "Oh well."

    Were I allowed to send you the quantity of word documents I have to
    reply back and request for them to be saved in html so I can read them.
    Unfortunately, they are labelled as confidential and can't be released.
    Now THAT would be a laugh.

    > Further more, I'd just like to say that I find the
    > position held by the FSF (which you most likely agree
    > with) here to be utterly heinous, hypocritical,
    > detrimental to the free software community, and
    > factually inaccurate.
    > What I have issues with is that they advocate one
    > proprietary, inadequately documented format (PDF) to
    > replace another proprietary, inadequately documented
    > format (DOC). That's not to mention that DOC and PDF
    > don't nearly serve similar purposes, and there are
    > *no* good PDF editors (this includes Acrobat - PDF
    > isn't meant to be edited, really...), while several
    > Free DOC editors exist. I've written one of them.
    > Let's not play favorites between 2 giant proprietary
    > software companies...

    Only Adobe's extensions to PDF are proprietary, being the rest

    PDF is a sort of PS, and as such not intended for editing, but for
    displaying as the author intended either on screen or printed.

    Besides, there's much more pdf generating Free Software than Adobe's,
    which will only produce pdf's that can be viewed by Free Software as

    > 1) The word format is not entirely secret. Microsoft
    > has published specs on it (at least word 97->2003,
    > word 5, word 2), which are (surprisingly) fairly
    > accurate.

    Not entirely secret == some parts are secret

    Now, are those specs public? Where?

    > 2) RMS shortchanges the Free Software Community. We
    > don't have to use "strings" to find out the text -
    > we've got a _ton_ of Free readers and writers for the
    > format that preserve both content and formatting. Give
    > the GPL and LGPL software community some credit. We do
    > a much better job than "not choking on some of the
    > documents," as the article suggests.

    Did you even read the text?

    Many GNU users who receive Word documents try to find ways to handle
    them. You can manage to find the somewhat obfuscated ASCII text in
    the file by skimming through it. Free software today can read some
    Word documents, but not all--the format is secret and has not been
    entirely decoded. Even worse, Microsoft can change it at any time.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^

    > 3) It suggests that plaintext, PDF, and HTML are
    > equivalent forms of the document. Plaintext cannot
    > begin to capture the formatting of the document, let
    > alone a lot of the data (images, objects, fields,
    > ...). PDF preserves none of the semantics - all you're
    > left with is a vector picture of what your document
    > once looked like. HTML does a lot better job than
    > either of the before in preserving both the text and
    > semantics.

    Yes and no. Plain text can be used to write .tex documents.

    > "Why did you choose to send me 876,377 bytes in your
    > recent message when the content is only 27,133 bytes?"
    > - Uh, because there were tables, frames, columns,
    > images, and an embedded spreadsheet in the document.
    > Duh.

    Don't you think the reader who proposed that message knows that?
    He probably had a way to get read that document and convert it to a more
    suitable format, thus hugely reducing the content.

    I've found some word docs to greatly reduce in size when converted to
    AbiWord's current format without loss of information other than some
    format changes and oddities.

    > 4) Microsoft does not change the file format with
    > every release. The Office XP file formats are nearly
    > (if not entirely) identical to Office 97. That's 6
    > years worth of backwards AND forwards compatibility.
    > It is hardly "forcing people to upgrade with every new
    > release". In fact, MS has had office revenue
    > "problems" simply because they *can't* get people to
    > upgrade as often as they'd like.

    There must be a reason for my experience to differ from
    your theory.

    > This message would do better to advocate using Abi,
    > KOffice, OOo, etc... At least then the suggested
    > courses of action would at least be coherent. Their
    > underlying message is good, and I largely agree with
    > it. However, it's hard to agree with it with so much
    > garbage piled on top of it. But such is the way of
    > FUD, even when the FUD has a well-intentioned message
    > behind it.

    Only one point is confusing (the PDF) and that is because of Adobe's
    extensions, so I think you're not really measuring properly what you
    call FUD.


    + No matter how much you do, you never do enough -- unknown
    + Whatever you do will be insignificant,
    | but it is very important that you do it -- Gandhi
    + So let's do it...?

    Please AVOID sending me WORD, EXCEL or POWERPOINT attachments. See

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