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3856Re: [wpmac] Reply to MS Word documents

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  • Randy B. Singer
    May 13, 2007
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      I realize that this is a WordPerfect/Mac list, and like the other
      members of this list I am very fond of, and even enthusiastic about,
      WordPerfect/Mac. (Though I switched to Word a few years after Corel
      abandoned WP/Mac as a matter of expedience.) But I usually find
      Microsoft Word bashing to be mostly based on fallacious premises, and
      I feel compelled, as a Word user, to point this out.

      (I can't argue with hatred for Microsoft, and I wholeheartedly agree
      that Microsoft deserves to be hated. But some of us have to use the
      best tools available to us for our businesses, and so, as a matter of
      practicality, use Word as the only high-end word processor for the
      Mac that is still actively being sold and supported.)

      On May 12, 2007, at 2:32 PM, John Rethorst wrote:

      > A current thread on Usenet concerns the practice of
      > emailing information in MS Word format, or posting
      > documents on the web in that format, on the assumption
      > that everyone can read it.

      I've seen this discussed on a couple of Mac discussion lists. The
      actual discussions that I've seen don't necessarily support what you
      have cited.

      > A post suggests this reply:
      > "You have sent me a text file as a Microsoft Word
      > attachment which I have deleted.

      Not everyone can afford to do this. If you have a job, the Word file
      format is the de facto (like it or not) file format for word
      processing documents. It isn't practical, or wise, to delete files
      that you receive from co-workers or others associated with your
      business. At least not if you want to remain employed.

      > Because my mail is read
      > from a variety of machines both while travelling and at
      > various places of work, I do not always have access to MS
      > Word, nor do I use MS Word on a daily basis

      Just about every single modern word processor has Word translators.
      AppleWorks or Pages come with/came with many new Macs. Both do a
      nice job of opening Word files. You can even open Word files nicely
      in lowly TextEdit, which comes with OS X.

      If you prefer, you can open Word files in icWord, an inexpensive
      shareware program that does an excellent job.

      You aren't forced to own Word, or any Microsoft product, to read Word
      files sent to you. In most cases you aren't even forced to purchase
      anything extra beyond what you already have.

      In short, there is no excuse not to be able to open a Word file that
      you receive. As I said above, it is a de facto standard, so everyone
      supports it.

      (As a side note, WordPerfect/Mac always did only a fair to poor job
      of opening Word format files, even when DataViz's translators were
      included, and I believe that this contributed strongly to its demise.)

      > and the version
      > of MS Word I do have is probably hopelessly out of date and
      > incompatible with your document anyway.

      Lots of folks who don't use Word like to go around saying that
      Microsoft changes the file format for Word with every version. Not
      only is that not true, but the truth is that Microsoft has gone out
      of its way to ensure backwards and forwards file compatibility.

      Word has had essentially the same basic file format for the past
      three versions of the program. Files from previous versions open
      just fine in even the latest version. *And* Microsoft has
      consistently offered translators to allow older versions of Word to
      open files from newer versions.

      For instance, here is a plug-in, provided for free from Microsoft,
      to allow Word 5.1 to read Word documents created by newer versions of


      Lots of folks still use Word 5.1(a program from well over a decade
      ago) effectively, with no file format problems when sharing files
      with others.

      The recently introduced Word file format (so far Windows only, but
      soon to come to the Mac), based on XML, OpenXML/Doc-X, is not
      proprietary. It is an ISO-certified open format. Everyone has
      access to the format''s complete specifications, so any developer can
      create perfect translators or use this file format in their product.

      And while Microsoft hasn't provided translators yet for the Mac
      version of Word for Doc-X, there are already translators available
      from third parties, some of which are free.

      > By attaching a
      > message that could have been inserted into your mail as
      > plain text using simple cut-and-paste,

      It's true that if you are writing a short e-mail message that
      requires no formatting, plain text in the body of the message is the
      way to go. This has nothing to do with MS Word, it is just a matter
      of netiquette and common sense.

      However, if you are sending folks a document that requires complex
      formatting, a word processing document sent as a file attachment is
      the way to go, and the Word file format is the lingua franka of the
      business world, like it or not.

      > you are forcing me
      > to save, decode and move your message to a different
      > machine which is a labourious and time-consuming procedure.

      This is pure BS. As I outlined above, its dead easy to find/keep
      something on your computer, laptop or not, that will open Word files.

      > It also forces me involuntarily to expose the other machine
      > to potential viruses both binary and macro, which is
      > unecessary and inconsiderate.

      I don't know of any non-macro viruses that can infect Word files. I
      don't think that there are any. This is pure FUD. (Fear,
      Uncertainty and Doubt.)

      While there are literally hundreds of macro viruses for Word, some of
      which are cross-platform, it is dead easy to avoid being infected by
      them. Just enable Macro Virus Protection in Preferences in Word.
      More FUD.

      > If you feel that your document has formatting which is
      > essential for my understanding, kindly save it as html, XML
      > or RTF before sending.

      HTML is not a reliable format for documents (witness how much trouble
      a good Webmaster has to go through to make sure that his/her site
      will render properly for as many visitors as possible), and it is not
      as feature-rich as most word processing formats.

      RTF is just another, less robust, Microsoft format. Chances are
      excellent that if you have something that can handle an RTF file that
      it can also handle a Word file just as well.

      XML is only now becoming popular, and its implementations vary
      considerably. It is disingenuous to complain about receiving Word
      files because you can't find something to open them, and then turn
      around and ask for files in XML format. Who is currently using XML-
      based word processors and what do you have that will open various XML
      files reliably?

      I believe that this all originated with this piece:
      I think that the Stallman piece is simply a propaganda piece, and it
      contains a large number of severe inaccuracies. (Lies?)

      If you hate Microsoft I think that you should just be honest and
      come out and say so. If you want to organize a boycott of
      Microsoft's products because you hate Microsoft, do it. I can
      respect both of these things. But spreading lies and FUD isn't
      honorable, and, frankly, makes someone like Stallman no better than

      Ultimately, if you want to get people to stop using Word and the Word
      file format, you will have to offer them a better alternative. I
      think that Mac users should spend their time writing to Corel,
      encouraging them to bring back WP/Mac (and the new version should
      support an open-standard XML-based file format), rather than lower
      themselves by spreading FUD about Word.

      Randy B. Singer
      Co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th, and 6th editions)

      Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance
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