debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Simon Fowler simon at
Thu Apr 25 10:43:37 EST 2002

On Thu, Apr 25, 2002 at 09:51:51AM +1000, Alex Satrapa wrote:
> On Thursday, April 25, 2002, at 01:02 , Simon Fowler wrote:
> >It'd be /really/ nice if it was possible to say "familiar with
> >general word processing techniques", rather than "familiar with
> >$wordprocessor"
> I don't see that such a thing is really feasible.  When a company is 
> already using WordPerfect, they want to employ administrative staff who 
> already know WordPerfect.
> Word processing techniques are vastly different between, for example, 
> "toy" editors like AppleWorks and "real" word processors like 
> WordPerfect.  Microsoft Word uses stylesheets, provides an outline view, 
> has a revision tracking system, and allows comments to be inserted as 
> the equivalent of "PostIt Notes(tm)" into the document.
> I cannot see that there are any skills (apart from typing and knowing 
> how to use a mouse) that are portable between AppleWorks, WordPerfect, 
> Wordstar and Microsoft Word.
I admit it's been a long time since I used any commercial
wordprocessors, but are they really /that/ different? I know from
using wordperfect a bit that the basics are the same - the things
that 90% of users actually make use of, even in a corporate
environment. You type stuff in, do some formatting with
mouse/toolbars/etc, save, print, that kind of thing. How mnay people
actually /use/ things like stylesheets in word? And how long would
it take to pick up those differences when needed?

It's not like a switch betwee Word and LyX, where the models behind
the programs are completely different . . .

I don't know about spreadsheets - I've used them even less than I've
used wordprocessors (go emacs!), but again, I'm fairly sure the 
basic models are the same, and it's just the icing on top that 

It's very easy to get into a mindset that says that it's very
difficult to change between applications. But how difficult is it to
switch between HTML editors? They do the same things, slightly
differently, but not mindbendingly so. Most applications are like
that, unless you're dealing with something like blender that really
does go it alone, interface wise. There just aren't that many
different ways to do the same thing . . .


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