☆ Promoting Document Freedom

Today is Document Freedom Day. It’s not the easiest subject to explain. It’s easy to explain why being free to video a police encounter in the USA is important, or why it’s wrong for your eBook to be remotely controlled by a vendor, but many people fail to understand the subtlety of why a document format is important.

Having your work in a format that will still be readable in 20 years makes sense, and being able to be sure when you share a document with others that they will be able to read it and work on it is also good. But people glaze over when you try to explain that an ISO standard is not enough. Having a document format standard that is beyond the control of any individual vendor and is fully implemented in multiple products is crucial, but seems esoteric.

So when it comes to practical actions, most people still just save their work in the format their office software chooses for them by default. They send it out to everyone without a thought for the fact they are adding their own energy to a market monopoly that restricts choice and innovation and sells our future to one of the worlds richest convicted monopolists. It’s convenient now, but who knows if the files will even be readable in the future? The largest corporations can change (Nokia started making rubber products) or even go out of business (I’ll leave you to think of an example!)

The fact it is so hard to explain to ordinary people why their choice of document format matters, why a little effort now can make all the difference in the world, is what led me to the conclusion it was worth promoting hybrid PDFs. As I wrote yesterday on ComputerWorldUK, it is possible to create a PDF that can also be fully edited.

Like ODF, PDF is a standard. Sending a PDF makes the maximum number of people able to read your work, so it’s worth the small extra effort to create it. Developing an instinct to always send PDFs ensures maximum readability, and it’s safe to assume PDFs will continue to be readable for the indefinitely long future. Using online storage instead of attaching the file can be good, but plenty of mobile and out-of-office people will be inconvenienced or excluded by that, so I’ve found people reluctant to rely on it at the moment.

Sending PDFs is the right answer. The only issue is editability. Most people just want to send one attachment, so they opt for the one from their word-processor or presentation program. By a simple software upgrade to LibreOffice, that problem is solved too. LibreOffice makes PDFs very easily, and now also comes configured to create PDFs that can be edited. I’ve created full instructions which you are welcome to pass on to others – and edit if you need to!

While I am naturally a huge supporter of Open Document Format as the best protection for our digital liberty, pragmatically I think educating and encouraging people to send PDFs instead of .DOC/.DOCX files is the best next step. When they learn the benefits of editable PDFs, they are also using ODF, of course – that’s the format that’s embedded in the PDF. But it’s a smaller, easier, less controversial step to send a PDF to all their friends and collaborators.

So celebrate Document Freedom Day with me today. Send a friend my tip about editable PDFs, or just the how-to sheet. The journey to freedom starts with the first step.

☝ Magic Editable PDFs

Please stop sending .DOC or .DOCX files as attachments to your e-mails. There is a better way. Send editable PDFs. I explain how in ComputerWorldUK today.

☝ LibreOffice Matures

Now finally and firmly established as an independent entity, The Document Foundation and LibreOffice are a refreshing story of community triumphing over adversity. Read more over at ComputerWorldUK.

⚡ LibreOffice Video

Loved this new video that introduces LibreOffice in an easy and understandable way.

[youtube http://youtu.be/sloEMUt7n5Q]

It would be great to have some more LibreOffice videos like this and I know there are folk reading this who could make them – how about it?

☞ LibreOffice Governance Progress

  • Nominations are now open for The Document Foundation board of directors. Anyone who is eligible to vote is also eligible to stand for election. I’m acting as the Elections Officer so that all the people who were actually involved in setting up LibreOffice (I was not) are free to stand for election – my small contribution to the project.

☆ Contribute To The LibreOffice Conference

I am on the Programme Committee for the upcoming LibreOffice Conference in Paris, and as a consequence I get to see the stream of paper submissions. There have already been a lot of diverse submissions and it’s already clear it will be a very interesting conference, but there is still room for more. Make sure you get your submission in before the August 8th deadline.

Of course, you can also contribute as a delegate. Registration is free and you can do it easily now. I suggest registering early as space is going to be at a premium.

☝ OpenOffice.Org and the LibreOffice Imperative

As expected, the Apache Software Foundation took the first steps to admitting the OpenOffice.org project to the Apache community, following Oracle’s IBM-designed proposal. It now faces a time of maturing and proving in Apache’s Incubator.

I’ve avoided publishing articles here during the Apache discussion as I have both a history and strong views. But with the end of voting, it’s time to document the story so far. You can read my views over on ComputerWorldUK.

If that’s TL;DR, here’s a summary:  The best thing end-users can do is ignore OpenOffice.org at Apache, and switch to LibreOffice instead until the dust settles and we can all see a better path forward.

☝ OO.o, TDF and CLAs

Yesterday I read LWN’s (paywalled but accessible from here) interview with Mark Shuttleworth, where he is quoted as saying that the formation of The Document Foundation (TDF) and its launch of LibreOffice “led Oracle to finally decide to stop OpenOffice development and lay off 100 employees.”  Mark says this in the context of his new campaign as an apologist for Contribution Licensing Agreements, about which I have written extensively.

I felt that Mark’s use of OpenOffice.org as an argument in favour of CLAs was jaw-dropping, so I wrote a response on the plane home today. You can read it now behind LWN’s paywall using my special link.

☆ Document Foundation Member

Having applied for membership as soon as the process was announced, I’m honoured to have been accepted today as a Member of The Document Foundation. Having been associated with OpenOffice.org for over a decade in a variety of capacities, I have a deep appreciation of what has been achieved both technically in creating a cross-platform productivity suite and politically in challenging what looked like an entrenched monopoly.

Today, LibreOffice and ODF have a maturity and global acceptance that even those of us imagining the possibilities at the start of the previous decade could not have anticipated. I look forward to working with the Steering Committee and the rest of the community to continue the amazing achievements to date.

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