A recent review of LibreOffice 6.0 explains well how good it is, but also presents as a feature what actually is a failure (not in LibreOffice!).
I wrote in 2001 that “most of [OpenOffice] advocacy, while always in good faith, is… much less effective than what it could be.” This part of that review falls in that category:
This latest edition of LibreOffice boasts much better file compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. I checked this by sending a manuscript to an editor of mine who always found problems with LibreOffice's docx formatting. At last, with LibreOffice 6.0, she's happy with formatting.
Specifically, LibreOffice 6.0 comes with improved Microsoft Office Open OOXML interoperability.
Statements like these feel to me like 2018 is the seventeenth year we promote free/open office suites in the wrong way.
“Much better file compatibility with Microsoft Office documents” and “improved Microsoft Office Open OOXML interoperability” are, at best, pain killers. They are NOT progress. Not anymore. What those statements actually mean is:
“it’s 2018, and we still tolerate formats created by (any!) one corporation just to protect its monopoly as if they were a law of physics, to the point that we are thank whoever helps us bear those chains”
Being happy for compatibility and interoperability like that is like saying “someone is forcing me to take crack, but luckily I found an almost perfect vaccine for it”. It is an admission of defeat. It’s an acknowledgments that FOSS advocates haven’t managed yet to pass the most important message:
- documents are what really matters, not software. Software is just a tool to manage documents
- the first, if not the only thing, that absolutely MUST be “free as in freedom”, even before software itself, is document formats
- the OpenDocument Format (ODF) is a truly international and open standard, which was not created on purpose to just keep one monopolist happy. ODF is much, much simpler and easier to deal with (i.e. much more future-proof) than OpenXML.
I do know that life is complicated. I still find myself, sometimes, in situations where sending files in OpenXML format to an editor, project manager or public administration is the only viable way to get paid, or get some certificate you absolutely need, and principles be damned.
But it’s 2018. We MUST start to threat software as pens, and formats as alphabets. All reviews of Open/LibreOffice should highlight that having ODF as their native format, is way more imporant than still running after other formats. All reviews of Microsoft Office should value its compatibility with ODF above anything else. All reviews of any office suites should routinely encourage readers to send or accept new documents only in ODF format. That’s all I ask.
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