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LibreOffice and support for Microsoft file formats

Feb 10, 2011, 14:02 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

"One of the intriguing aspects of LibreOffice, the OpenOffice.org fork, is that everything is open to debate. However, this atmosphere also means that the old debate about supporting proprietary Microsoft formats -- specifically the newer OOXML format -- is being revived. The trouble with this debate is that it is endless, since it is a specific example of the longstanding conflict of convenience and ethics in free software, and strong arguments exist on both sides.

"The latest round in this old debate seems to have been sparked by an article published by Groklaw on December 20, 2010, which documents Novell's involvement in promoting the OOXML format. Ten days later, a message on a LibreOffice mailing list cited the Groklaw article, threatening a boycott of LibreOffice and declaring, "There is absolutely no need to write in this proprietary format. To do so is contrary to the principle of using [Open Document Format] and open source formats."

"A discussion of the pros and cons followed. It became lengthy enough that, a month later, The Document Foundation, the organization that develops LibreOffice, posted an FAQ in which it stated that, while it advocated using Open Document Format, it included OOXML support as a convenience for users. In effect, The Document Foundation left the dilemma of what to do up to each user -- just as distributions like Debian and Ubuntu provide proprietary drivers, but leave users to decide whether to install them. The decision is unlikely to satisfy those who threatened a boycott, although many might argue that it is simply realistic."

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