Stallman on Word

| May 15, 2012

You sent the attachment in Microsoft Word format, a secret proprietary format, so it is hard for me to read. If you send me plain text, HTML, or PDF, then I will read it.

Distributing documents in Word format is bad for you and for others. You can’t be sure what they will look like if someone views them with a different version of Word; they may not work at all.

Receiving Word documents is bad for you because they can carry viruses see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro_virus_computing. Sending Word documents is bad for you because a Word document normally includes hidden information about the author, enabling those in the know to pry into the author’s activities maybe yours. Text that you think you deleted may still be embarrassingly present. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3154479.stm for more info.

But above all, sending people Word documents puts pressure on them to use Microsoft software and helps to deny them any other choice. In effect, you become a buttress of the Microsoft monopoly. This pressure is a major obstacle to the broader adoption of free software. Would you please switch to a different way of sending files to other people, instead of Word format?

Microsoft is already starting to make Word users switch to a new version of Word format, based on OOXML. Its specs are 6000 pages long–so complex that probably no one else can ever implement it–and Microsoft can sue you for patent infringement if you try. If you don’t wish to join in this attack against interoperability, the way to avoid it is by deciding not to use Word format for interchange.

To convert the file to HTML using Word is simple. Open the document, click on File, then Save As, and in the Save As Type strip box at the bottom of the box, choose HTML Document or Web Page. Then choose Save. You can then attach the new HTML document instead of your Word document. Note that Word changes in inconsistent ways—if you see slightly different menu item names, please try them.

To convert to plain text is almost the same—instead of HTML Document, choose Text Only or Text Document as the Save As Type.

Your computer may also have a program to convert to PDF format. Select File, then Print. Scroll through available printers and select the PDF converter. Click on the Print button and enter a name for the PDF file when requested.See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html for more about this issue.

Here’s another approach, suggested by Bob Chassell. It requires that you edit it for the specific example, and it presumes you have a way to extract the contents and see how long they are.

I am puzzled. Why did you choose to send me 876,377 bytes in your recent message when the content is only 27,133 bytes?You sent me five files in the non-standard, bloated .doc format that is Microsoft’s secret, rather than in the international, public, and more efficient format of plain text.Microsoft can and did recently in Kenya and Brazil have local police enforce laws that prohibit students from studying the code, prohibit entrepreneurs starting new companies, and prohibit professionals offering their services. Please don’t give them your support.

via We Can Put an End to Word Attachments – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation FSF.