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On 2 January 2011 10:50, James Wilde <> wrote:
Is anyone else getting the impression that this thread is polarising into US v rest of world?

We've seen several people say that they have to accept what their customers provide and can't go 
back to the customer and say "can you provide this in another format?".  To me that's an attitude 
which I, rightly or wrongly, associate with the US.  In Europe we just fire away an email and get 
the file back again in another format.

I beg to differ. I have worked in France, Luxembourg and now the UK
and in every single case MS Office is the "standard" that everybody
uses, both at work and at home. Most of them are not even aware that
alternatives exist and the first thing they ask when you suggest they
use open source is whether it is fully compatible with MS Office.

If I were to ask any of my European customers to provide documents in
another format, they would first have an issue finding a format that
they can write to (they don't have the ODF plugins, they can't produce
PDF and RTF tends to be too limited for their needs), then assuming
they can find a file format that we can both read and write, they
would do it once, maybe twice but the third time they would ask me to
stop being a pain in the backside and get myself a copy of MS Office.

And the other side of the coin, as others have said, outside the US more and more governments and 
non-US corporations are going over to FLOSS, whereas in the US, Microsoft is dominant.

Some governments and organisations have allegedly moved to FLOSS but
I've not yet encountered one in real life. People are starting to take
notice of FLOSS but they only consider it if they have a smooth
migration path and that includes being able to interact seamlessly
with their existing software install base and with their customers and
suppliers. If you make the migration path difficult, they won't
migrate. And considering how ubiquitous office documents are in the
average enterprise, migrating means supporting the MS Office formats
along the ODF ones.

If this is the case, we're never going to reach concensus on this topic.  Personally I've already 
signed up on Larry's side.  How about this for a compromise:

LibO comes with support to read docx (which it converts to ODT), but not to write it.  When 
someone tries to write it, a notice comes up saying in effect that docx is a broken format which 
even MS doesn't think much of, and that LibO, in the interests of free standards does not support 
it in vanilla mode.  However, click on this button and we'll save in doc format. One might even 
provide two buttons (plus Cancel), Save as doc and Save as odt.

This argument has been tried before with web standards and other
document formats. Unfortunately, it's an argument that FLOSS cannot
win. Not because the FLOSS point of view is wrong but because the
argument goes well above the heads of the majority of users. From
their point of view, they use MS Office all the time, it produces the
types of documents they need. The way most non-technical users see it
(and a large number of technical users too), if LibreOffice can't read
and write MS Office documents then LibreOffice is broken.

Besides, saying that docx is broken and suggesting to save to doc
feels counter productive to me: even though docx is far from being
perfect, it's still a lot more open and free than doc.

But for the Americans and others who might want it, a downloadable module is provided which will 
write to docx format.  Then we turn the matter over to the educators, communicators and marketers 
to educate, communicate with and market to the North American continent.  Then those who want it 
can get docx compatibility, but they have to make an active choice and they're told it's risky 
and why.

Ubuntu tried exactly that for non-free codecs: install only free
codecs by default but give the users the possibility to add non-free
codecs through the extras package later on. In the latest release
(10.10 -- Maverick Meerkat), they actually made it easier for users to
install non-free codecs by making it an option in the installation
wizard. The reason for it was that the non-free codecs package was not
easily discoverable for new users and not installing them by default
generated a lot of queries in the forums.

So maybe it would be useful to learn from the Ubuntu experience,
provide a single version of LibreOffice and include an option in the
installation wizard to install support for OOXML or not, with an
explanation about what that choice means.

My £0.02


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