Making the best of MS Office files



  • http://blogs.fsfe.org/the_unconventional/2014/09/12/making-the-best-of-ms-office-files/

    As a Free Software user, I obviously frown upon Microsoft Office and its file formats.

    Obviously. Co-existence is impossible.

    https://blogs.fsfe.org/the_unconventional/files/2013/08/msfree.gif

    Having to deal with MS Office files should therefore always be kept to a minimum. Just ask anyone that sends you such a document to export it as a PDF instead. Most people will comply when you ask nicely, but of course there will always be twits who refuse to make any kind of effort.

    Fucking twits! Needing to send editable documents instead of a read-only format! It's twit-central here!

    In that case, I would advise to simply tell the other person that you will not continue the collaboration until he/she sends you a working document.

    This isn't going nearly far enough. I would advise a swift and unannounced gut-punch.

    Microsoft’s OOXML format is a moving target, with Microsoft executives coming up with new ways to hinder interoperability and increase their vendor lock-in every day.

    "I kind of want to insult Microsoft, but I also don't want to make fun of the day-to-day guys who just work there and do their job and draw a paycheck..." "Easy! Just lie and say the company execs are the ones documenting and implementing file formats! Greasy open source hippies will never be able to call that out as being obvious bullshit, it's not like any of them have ever had jobs!"

    So LibreOffice’s OOXML support will never be ‘done’, as the “standard” is subject to changes all the time. Undocumented changes, because the standard itself stays the same, but Microsoft’s intentional misimplementations do not.

    I know this comes as a shock to most open source people, but when you add features to a product, you frequently have to modify the file format to support them.

    Most non-complex documents will render without any noticeable issues (as long as you have all the fonts), but as soon as you have to deal with macros and other complex stuff, well… may the heavens have mercy.

    The fight for open source is opposed by God himself, you heard it here first.

    For instance, they’ve developed a bunch of free and open source fonts for Chrome OS which are metrically compatible with a lot of the proprietary/patented stuff that Microsoft shoves down our throats.

    (Shockingly, "metrically" is an actual word.)

    mixed layouts (some pages in portrait mode and some others in landscape mode),

    Wait... LibreOffice can't handle that? In 2014? Jesus shit on a pogo stick, what the fuck are they implementing?

    Because I found Microsoft’s usage terms to be completely unacceptable, I couldn’t proceed. But I asked a friend that could live with Microsoft’s demands to test Office Online on my Debian machine with only the main repository enabled. And it hurts to say this, but Microsoft’s service works perfectly on a computer with 100% Free Software.

    Why does it hurt to say that? What the fuck. "Microsoft is so evil, that even when their products are 100% standards-compliant and work in any environment, I wish they didn't!"

    Keep in mind though that everything you upload or type here will be saved on an American server indefinitely (there’s no such thing as a delete button that actually deletes), and everything will most likely be forwarded to the NSA automatically, because you are a terrorist.

    Just wanted to quote that part, no commentary needed I think.

    So I asked my friend to open this same document with Word Online on my computer. And I’m not sure if this should make me happy or sad, but it works without an issue.

    Wait.

    He refuses to use Office Online on his computer because draconian EULA, horrible Microsoft heebie-jeebies, etc. But he's perfectly ok if someone else does it using his computer?

    He better wipe and reinstall it post-haste! Who knows how much NSA evil spy assassin hidden software is on his computer now! And it's probably even... closed source!

    We obvioulsy don’t want to work with Word Online any longer than we have to,

    Obviously. Or, I guess, "obvioulsy". LibreOffice has a great spellchecker, did I mention?

    It takes a couple of seconds to generate a PDF for you and a copy for the NSA, but afterwards you’ll be given a direct download link.

    This guy is literally crazy. He belongs in an institution, not writing "how-to" articles on blogs.

    In the end, Microsoft is still Microsoft, so don’t expect to ever see a Download as ODF option.

    That's not because Microsoft's evil, that's because ODF doesn't support all the features of Microsoft Office, and thus by converting to ODF your document could easily end up truncated or broken in nasty ways.

    The feature-set of the application determines the file format, and Office has a fuckton more features than Libre-whatever will ever have.

    Although I’m personally prohibited from using Office Online because I don’t agree with the usage terms or the privacy policy (and most other FSFE members will likely feel the same), it may be somewhat of a solution to the less ideological GNU/Linux users who don’t care as much about privacy and security.

    Wait... prohibited? Who's stopping him, other than the little gremlins dancing around on his medulla oblongata?

    But then a particular China Crisis song comes to mind...

    "King in a Catholic Style"?



  • The homepage of that site has an awesome free vision test. Can you read this text without getting a headache?

    (Spoiler: no.)



  • Now, normally I might find your tone offensive and think you're going too far, but in light of the post you've dissected...

    I will admit that due to a loophole, I was able to read that text without getting a headache. My daily work beat it to it.



  • Sounds like a guide for living off the grid.


  • mod

    Ow.



  • Created with free software, presumably.

    @idiot blog said:

    Most people will comply when you ask nicely, but of course there will always be twits who refuse to make any kind of effort.

    Of course, because as you said, no-one wants editable documents and everyone has access to easily generate PDFs from Office.

    The only sensible alternative he could find to Office was umm... Office? Shame he's too busy hating Microsoft for being Microsoft for this to register.


  • SockDev

    The biggest fuckery of OOXML is the fact that when they pushed it through ISO, there was no application on Earth that actually generated valid OOXML files as to specification. NOT EVEN THE ONLY FUCKING PROGRAM THAT WROTE OOXML AT ALL.



  • Sounds like one of those crazy religious people whining about how hard is it to live in modern world while following their dogma. I'm sorry but, no, I'm really not. Go fuck yourself.

    Also, the guy on that banner, "Former Debian Project Leader ". Coincidentally, Debian maintains its own renamed versions of Firefox and Thunderbird (they went with the 'ice' theme), because they didn't like that Mozilla trademarked the names. There's liking the open source and then there's... that. Just saying.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    >Just ask anyone that sends you such a document to export it as a PDF instead.

    I'm with the blog guy on this one. Given the current level of PDF integration within browsers (and the fact that there are many awesome lightweight PDF readers outside of them), people who post forms and other documents as .docs deserve their own circle of hell.

    When it comes to editable document formats, though, it's either that or TeX, and good luck teaching CEOs and other senior management people how to do TeX. And OpenOffice/LibreOffice was hell 5 or so years ago, and I don't suspect much had changed.



  • @cartman82 said:

    ...because they didn't like that Mozilla trademarked the names. There's liking the open source and then there's... that. Just saying.

    I thought the dispute was that Mozilla (quite reasonably, IMO) doesn't allow patched versions to be distributed with their trademarks. Distros fairly regularly apply patches to software, and Debian patches their distribution of Firefox/IceCat, meaning they can't use the Firefox name.

    In other words, it wasn't really (or at least was only partially) actually an ideological dispute.


  • SockDev

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozilla_Corporation_software_rebranded_by_the_Debian_project suggests it was related to the logo not fitting Debian's ideas of 'free'



  • @EvanED said:

    I thought the dispute was that Mozilla (quite reasonably, IMO) doesn't allow patched versions to be distributed with their trademarks. Distros fairly regularly apply patches to software, and Debian patches their distribution of Firefox/IceCat, meaning they can't use the Firefox name.

    In other words, it wasn't really (or at least was only partially) actually an ideological dispute.

    My version, with crazy hippie OSS-tards sticking it to the man sounds way better.



  • @Arantor said:

    [wikipedia, which I apparently can't select the url of without visiting it] suggests it was related to the logo not fitting Debian's ideas of 'free'
    OK, so I see that side of the argument too. Debian didn't use the Firefox logo because of ideological reasons, and that led to them not being able to use the name Firefox either because of Mozilla's trademark policy. So the origin of the dispute was ideological. Though I still think it's an incomplete accounting to say that it was not really all of the trademark issues that caused problems.



  • @Maciejasjmj said:

    I'm with the blog guy on this one. Given the current level of PDF integration within browsers (and the fact that there are many awesome lightweight PDF readers outside of them), people who post forms and other documents as .docs deserve their own circle of hell.

    Yes, so much this. Microsoft Word/Excel/... were never intended as document interchange formats. PDF actually was designed to be one from the beginning, and for all its WTFs, it far outshines anything Microsoft's ever cooked up for this task.

    @Maciejasjmj said:

    When it comes to editable document formats, though, it's either that or TeX, and good luck teaching CEOs and other senior management people how to do TeX. And OpenOffice/LibreOffice was hell 5 or so years ago, and I don't suspect much had changed.

    OOo/LOo aren't quite as hellish now that Microsoft's taken a dump all over Office with the Ribbon. (I'm just glad the thing hasn't invaded DevDiv yet!)

    As to LaTeX: it looks far more intimidating than it actually is, like most markup languages. The big thing that really is a downer for using it in The Real World though isn't actually installing or using it, though, it's people who whine pointlessly because it doesn't produce output that looks like a glorified typewriter puked it out (the 1"-margins-or-death club should have died off long ago, but it hasn't).



  • Most people will comply when you ask nicely, but of course there will always be twits who refuse to make any kind of effort.

    Is it really the other person who should be going to any sort of length to provide the file in a format you prefer? This is one common issue that is really weird with free software. So many people seem to think they are entitled to certain things by virtue of using free software. In this case, he seems to be under the mistaken impression that his objections to Proprietary programs should become somebody elses problem.

    If you don't want to use software because of it's license, people you work with that do use that software are under no obligation to make any effort just to meet your weird demands. In fact I'd find this sort of thing just annoying, especially when- as this guy is doing- the person seems to think they are entitled to have the file in whatever format they please. How about instead of demanding somebody else make an effort, they get their head out of their ass and start judging software on it's functional merit rather than on it's software license?

    It just seems so strange that the software license would be so first-and foremost in terms of software selection. It's like not only refusing a router because the colour of the shell is on the pantone palette and you've decided that you disagree with pantone's ethics, but deciding to instead use a router from 5 years prior that has no shell at all and exposed DC solder joints, and claiming the problems aren't really there because you know a guy with a soldering iron.



  • @BC_Programmer said:

    In this case, he seems to be under the mistaken impression that his objections to Proprietary programs should become somebody elses problem.

    That Mitchell and Webb Look - Carnivore – 01:49
    — myLastTears



  • txt/gif in a zip, fairly universal



  • @tarunik said:

    The big thing that really is a downer for using it in The Real World though isn't actually installing or using it, though

    It's also that LaTeX error messages somehow manage to be about 10x worse than C++ template spew. I'm not sure how they managed that, because that's a real accomplishment... but the number of times I've had to resort to something approaching binary search to find where a TeX error is does not speak well for its general use.

    Edit: don't get me wrong, I still think it's one of the best tools out there for what it does, and I've written a >200-page dissertation in it. But I do not find it an... enjoyable experience, except sometimes in a perverse fashion.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    >As a Free Software user, I obviously frown upon Microsoft Office and its file formats.

    Obviously. Co-existence is impossible.

    Well, it kind of is as long as LibreOffice and co can't open MS Office files, and viceversa.

    OOXML is over 7x longer (and more complex) than OpenDocument, while achieving pretty much the same. It's a piece of crap, and it's not just me who says that, Google does, and Microsoft is very intentionally hurting everyone who does not have MS Office by pushing it as the default format in their software.

    If someone wanted to send you a photo and, instead of JPEG or PNG, sent it in some weird format that you can only open with some obscure program by Adobe that costs $500, the resulting blakeyrant would be 50 pages long.


  • kills Dumbledore

    My favourite bit:

    On Debian/Ubuntu, the installation is trivial:
    [a line of cli long enough that it has its own scrollbar]

    Fucking open source zealots



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Needing to send editable documents instead of a read-only format!

    @loopback0 said:

    Of course, because as you said, no-one wants editable documents and everyone has access to easily generate PDFs from Office.

    In this guy's defense, he did also say:

    When you also have to edit the document, ask for an ODF.

    so it's not like he's completely ignored the concept of editing documents.

    Obviously it doesn't make up for the rest of the craziness in the article, but if you are going to complain about something being heavily biased at least try to avoid doing exactly that yourself.



  • @charlieda said:

    Obviously it doesn't make up for the rest of the craziness in the article, but if you are going to complain about something being heavily biased at least try to avoid doing exactly that yourself.

    It's a comedy forum. I type what the fuck I want.




  • SockDev

    @blakeyrat said:

    It's a comedy forum. I type what the fuck I want.

    Is that what it is now? Christ.





  • In case of emergency: Microsoft Office Online

    DEAR GOD, SOUND THE ALARMS! CALL OUT THE NATIONAL GUARD!

    Let me start of by saying: this is not a solution and this is not suited for everyone, including myself.

    Then why advocate it?

    On the other hand, he kind of has a point about data persistence.



  • @boomzilla said:

    metrica



  • Discourse set my image size to 0×0. Thanks, Discourse.



  • When I wrote my master's thesis in latex I had to add several very large tables in landscape mode. That twitch expierience was totally horrible.

    A few weeks ago I tried to help a friend whose bibliography was not rendered - we never figured out which part of the tooolchain broke: biber, bibtex, latex, texworks...



  • Writing OOXML directly is annoying, but there are lots of really good libraries to read/write it, like EPPLUS for excel.
    I a modifying the DrawingML part of a presentation directly and while the format is not really good, it is easily doable.

    As for the length: As I understand it, OOXML holds a lot of legacy definitions because the MSO family has a lot more history than LibreOffice - so I do not think the length is really a problem.

    And to the google doc: It very old and pretty much outdated. Also, google hates microsoft and wanted to hurt them. But my main concern: WHY does everybody expect microsoft to adopt the odf standard, when it's the 900kg gorilla in the jungle? LIbre office would have much more reason to switch to OOXML than MS would gain from switching to odf.



  • @ben_lubar said:

    Discourse set my image size to 0×0. Thanks, Discourse.

    Yes. Really thanks! :thumbsup:



  • @blakeyrat said:

    But I asked a friend that could live with Microsoft’s demands to test Office Online on my Debian machine with only the main repository enabled. And it hurts to say this, but Microsoft’s service works perfectly on a computer with 100% Free Software.


    Please keep in mind that every version of Office created in the last 7 years has a built-in PDF export tool. It's literally three clicks: File → Export → PDF. The last version that couldn't do that out of the box, Office 2003, is now dead to Microsoft. (Incidentally, that's also the last version before ribbons. I hope you like ribbons. I do, but that's not the point.)

    Well, actually™: Wikipedia says the feature was added in Office 2007 SP2. Well, actually™: Office 2007 SP1 died in 2010.

    In other words, if you can't create a PDF file, you are either ignorant or you have bigger problems.



  • The main problem with the pdf export is, that sending files as PDF is inconvienient as hell.
    Most of the time, I send the docx / pptx format because I don't know if the recipient needs to do something with the file.



  • I send each page as a separate PNG image. That way, people can simply open the file up in Paint and draw their changes on with the mouse. It has the same advantage as PDF, in that you basically guarantee that everyone sees the same document, but editing is much more intuitive.



  • @HdS said:

    The main problem with the pdf export is, that sending files as PDF is inconvienient as hell.

    I know! Attaching a file as opposed to attaching a file. Maddening!

    Unless you're doing it for work and everybody is using the same system image, you don't know if the recipient even has got Office installed either, or if their version of Office is sufficiently new to view and edit the document properly anyway. So why send them docx/pptx? PDF files will open and show properly on virtually any device.

    Please don't get me wrong. I like Excel and Powerpoint. They're good software. LibreOffice Impress, otoh, is a turd that can't nudge an object up and back down in place and hitting the add shape icon (with a diamond icon) gets you a fucking rectangle, and whatever the Excel equivalent is called can't do some of the stuff I want it to do like downloading data from the web every 15 minutes or so. Still, you can't just assume everybody's pirated Office for your file sending convenience.


  • area_deu

    Transparency can easily get dropped though.



  • @bp_ said:

    Unless you're doing it for work and everybody is using the same system image, you don't know if the recipient even has got Office installed either, or if their version of Office is sufficiently new to view and edit the document properly anyway.

    In the corporate world, Office is pretty much a standard tool so it's a safe assumption that the recipient has some way of opening a doc/docx file.
    Outside of work, the opposite assumption is likely safer, but I can't even remember the last time I had to send someone a Word or Excel document outside of work.



  • Gimp can open PDFs too. :rainbow: :themoreyouknow:



  • @aliceif said:

    Transparency can easily get dropped though.

    I've not had any trouble so far.

    I experimented with animated GIFs, where each person would add a new layer to the animation. It worked quite well in the sense that you could see the change history, but we had to stop using it when three people had seizures.



  • @loopback0 said:

    In the corporate world

    With the caveat that Google, Amazon, IBM, Peugeot, Ubuntu, Red Hat, etc. are corporations, too.


  • SockDev

    Which is how come wooden tables are a thing.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Can you read this text without getting a headache?

    I think I did, but I developed new emotional problems instead, so that was fun.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    > mixed layouts (some pages in portrait mode and some others in landscape mode),

    Wait... LibreOffice can't handle that? In 2014? Jesus shit on a pogo stick, what the fuck are they implementing?

    Quoted out of context - LibreOffice can handle mixed layouts, it just cannot import them from OOXML documents.

    And LibreOffice could even handle mixed layouts when it was still closed source and called StarOffice 4. I know that since I opened a bug report at that time (while doing a term paper in StarOffice) that the TOC generator generated garbage when the TOC was on a portrait page but some of the referenced headlines were on a landscape page. [To be fair, the then-current version of Word 97 regularly messed up special characters in fonts that are encoded in other codepages than cp1252 (the default codepage on Win95 when using Western locale settings), and it crashed reproducibly when pasting more than 64 copies of an OLE object (formulas containing ) to an untitled document and then trying to save it. (Of course, my fault to believe I can write a whole chapter without saving and it will then be able to save it without problems). StarOffice crashed too, but needed 128 copies of the OLE object. :) ]



  • Reading the weird picture didn't give me a problem, but then, my eyes are apparently peculiar. I thought lavender text on a dark blue background was a perfectly readable contrast until someone told me otherwise.



  • @HdS said:

    But my main concern: WHY does everybody expect microsoft to adopt the odf standard, when it's the 900kg gorilla in the jungle? LIbre office would have much more reason to switch to OOXML than MS would gain from switching to odf.

    More to the point, Microsoft can't switch to ODF because ODF doesn't support all of the features of Microsoft Office.

    I really don't get how people (ostensibly developers) don't get this point: the file format is defined by the feature-set of the application. The only way Open/Libre/WhateverOffice and Microsoft Office could have a common file format is if they had a common feature-set, and they don't and never will.

    EDIT: if you want a "lowest-common-denominator" file format, we already have one. It's called Rich Text Format, or RTF. Yes, it sucks.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    More to the point, Microsoft can't switch to ODF because ODF doesn't support all of the features of Microsoft Office.

    We're not even asking them to switch to ODF, we're just asking them to read/write it sanely as an export/import format (they already have some support, even, from what I've read). They can come up with whatever blobs (whether binary or XML) they want as their internal format (i.e. .doc/.xls/.ppt and variations thereof), we just would rather they stopped shoving their internal format into everyone's face. (Microsoft did some things that gave the definite appearance of them [s]trying to put a hand on the scale of the OOXML standardization process[/s]trying to shove OOXML through ISO by hook or by crook; I'd have a lot fewer complaints about them had they had the horse-sense to not do that.)

    I suspect the main issue is going to be spreadsheet formula-functions, though. The initial ODF releases didn't have this defined because they were still busy trying to get it right, for once, while OOXML simply encoded Excel's sometimes-off-base spreadsheet function definitions.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    EDIT: if you want a "lowest-common-denominator" file format, we already have one. It's called Rich Text Format, or RTF. Yes, it sucks.

    Last time I used OpenOffice, it wouldn't properly save RTF files. Granted, this was in the mid-late 2000s, but that annoying characteristic is one of the reasons I started using Office again. Of course, my employers paying for an MSDN Ultimate license helped...



  • @tarunik said:

    We're not even asking them to switch to ODF, we're just asking them to read/write it sanely as an export/import format (they already have some support, even, from what I've read).
    They do, and have had it since the same time they got Save to PDF (Office 2007 SP2). The main thing you lose is all style and theme definitions; if you open the document again, expect any new headings, SmartShapes, master slides, et cetera to be Discoursistent at best. Of course, the intersection of "people who use styles and themes outside of LATEΧ" and "people who have their anti-M$ tinfoil hats glued on and only use ODF" is zero, so it's not perceived to be a problem.



  • That kind of mindless FOSS advocacy makes my blood boil.

    I work on the rule that I will use whatever works well. If that happens to be free and open source, great. If it happens to cost money, fine. Having a solution that actually works for me and my customers for some reason matters to me.

    If someone told me that they would refuse to work with me because I've sent them a docx/xlsx file, that sounds like a great warning sign that it's a job I need to get out of fast!



  • @Minimaul said:

    That kind of mindless FOSS advocacy makes my blood boil.

    I just find it interesting/funny that the whole movement is basically predicated on hating Microsoft.

    When you talk to people who are way into Mac computers and love Apple, they don't just rant about how horrible Microsoft is, and compare every feature they have with the equivalent from Microsoft, or define themselves in terms of what Microsoft isn't doing. It's this weird unhealthy obsession with the other guy.

    I used to have these "discussions" on Slashdot. You bring up something that Linux does poorly, say as a random ass-pull configuring printers, and bring it up to a Linux user and the first thing they say, the VERY FIRST THOUGHT: "well it sucks in Windows, too!"

    Seriously? Who gives a shit. I wasn't talking about Windows, I was talking about Linux. And if the bar for "Linux quality" is "sucks just as much as Windows", then I'm not sure exactly how you guys plan on conquering the universe.


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