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Re: OT: Massachusetts Verdict: MS Office Formats Out

On Thu, 29 Sep 2005, Mike McCarty wrote:

Craig White wrote:
On Thu, 2005-09-29 at 17:22 -0500, Mike McCarty wrote:

[snip big quote which didn't get referenced]

of course you are ignoring the fact that if you use Word and save the
file in a foreign format, you get the same type of warnings.

When did I say that Word was well-written? I don't recall saying that.
I don't recall defending Word at all.

I guess I don't see the distinction except that the warnings in OO only
come when you save files in .DOC format and in Word, when you don't save
in .DOC format.

I don't recall trying to compare the quality of OO with the quality of
Word in any respect.

Lazy programming is lazy programming, whoever does it.

One distinction is that OO can *know* when it loads in that it
cannot save out without either
	(1) losing information, or
	(2) changing to a different format, or
	(3) both.
Word doesn't have to warn about that until saving the output
because it *can* write out in the original format. If one saves
to a format which cannot store the original, but that cannot
be known until that time, then it is reasonable to warn (if
info *will* be lost) that this is going to occur. If OO waits
until I tell it to export my document in plain ASCII to say
that I'm definitely going to lose some stuff, and asks whether
I want to continue, that's fine, and it's also fine for Word
to wait until one exports into a foreign format that something
is definitely going to be lost. If a generic "YOU MAY LOSE SOMETHING"
gets displayed just because of change of format, but nothing is
actually going to get lost, then that's bad, whoever did it.

But that's not the use case that matters.

You can load a document in any format (.doc, txt, OOo format) and oowriter will do its best to preserve the formatting while converting to OOo format. You now have the document open in font of you, and you can see for yourself if the formatting is acceptable. (OK agreed, if oowriter had to drop information on import, it could warn you then.)

Now you are presumably going to modify the document. (Otherwise, what's the point of saving it? You already have the unmodified document in the format you want.) So you make changes. Certainly all of those changes can be preserved in OOo format--after all, that's what you are editing.

Now you want to save the modified document in .doc or .txt format. oowriter can't tell until it actually carries out the conversion if anything you've done could not be preserved in the external format. (Well, for txt format, it knows for sure that information will be lost, but it can't know if you care.) You might also have created a document from scratch in oowriter, and oowriter would never have had the opportunity to analyse any version in an external format. Your creation would be in OOo format with no possibility of knowing what formatting information might be lost on conversion until the conversion is carried out.

One way to proceed would be to export the document anyway and warn you ex post that formatting information was lost during the conversion. But that doesn't seem to be the convention. The convention seems to be to warn you in advance if the conversion might fail and ask if that's what you want. You could argue that an ex post warning would be better, but you can't argue that oowriter can always know ex ante precisely when the warning is needed.

Perhaps you are right. The only distinction between the crap
MS puts out and OO is that OO is open source crap. :-)

[take that as a very BIG smiley!]


		Matthew Saltzman

Clemson University Math Sciences
mjs AT clemson DOT edu

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