We were having a discussion in IRC this morning about how promoting free software and open standards can sometimes end up restricting your freedom. Now tell me if I’m wrong here, but as I understand the idea behind OpenOffice is:
To allow you to use any document format, and in the end any application that works best for you. Preferably you use the open .odt format, but when its all said and done compatibility is the key here.
In other words, Open Office reads and writes to a large number of document formats. This allows Open Office users to read from many applications and write to many application. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what application someone uses, its the underlying format or compatibility of that format that is important.
Now fast forward to this years BrainShare, put on by Novell. A local contributor is going to present but they *require* slides be submitted in Open Office Impress format. His slides aren’t in Open Office Impress format. Now we’ve come to the point where promoting free standards and applications has actually ended up in a lock-in, removing the freedom from the end user.
Everyone has a browser. Everyone can view s5 presentations. Not everyone has Word or Impress or Powerpoint and not everyone can view or submit presentations in Impress format.
To be honest with you I don’t even have Open Office installed. I *never* use it. What is the point of a word processor other than to communicate ideas via text? What are you doing with your word processor that you can’t do with vi or emacs? If you’re doing fancy formatting why not use the web? Use html or, hell, even use Google Docs.
Google Docs is genious because it solves the whole issue. It doesn’t matter what word processor you have (or don’t have), it simply requires you have a modern browser. Done. End of story. (The fact that Google pwns your content is another issue for another time however.)
If someone out there can tell me why I should use a fancy (read:bloated) Word processor instead of vim, or can tell me why I should use Impress instead of the web I’m open to suggestions.