debate about Free software for the ACT Government

Simon Haddon simon at
Fri Apr 26 08:40:31 EST 2002

Why does noone think of Star office/OPen office as a viable replacement 
for Word/Wordperfect/etc.  We have been using it for years and are very 
happy with compatability and integration.  It only took a friend about an 
hour to come to grips with any differences in commands/layout.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Original Message <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

On 25/04/02, 9:51:51 AM, Alex Satrapa <grail at> wrote 
regarding Re: debate about Free software for the ACT Government:

> 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.

> > ... And I think that's probably what we should be aiming for: not a
> > wholesale migration towards Free Software, but opening up the
> > possibility of using something other than MS software.

> It's a catch-22 - how can employers choose to use another word processor
> (for example), when noone knows how to use it?  The greatest cost in
> moving to the new word processor would be training staff to use it.

> The best thing any of us can do right now is list the products that we
> have experience with.  If you know WordPerfect, list WordPerfect as one
> of the products that you have experience using.  Until these alternative
> packages appear in people's resumes, how will employers know that there
> are alternatives?

> Then you need to develop skills in other packages.  By allowing more
> options for your future employer to pick from, you make it possible for
> them to have options.

> > Once that possibility is really available, the Free Software stuff will
> > win or lose on it's merits. As it stands, that's just not possible.

> Another alternative is a publicity campaign to point out that, for
> example, AbiWord and KOffice are Microsoft Word analogues.  Publish
> information about how compatible they are, and evangelise.  That means
> using those products yourself where possible, and any time the question
> comes up about, "what real alternatives are there?" - you can suggest
> the real alternatives.

> I've picked on Microsoft Word as the example, however the same rules
> would apply for Gimp vs Photoshop, Paintshop Pro, etc.  IIRC, the
> interfaces of The Gimp and Photoshop are quite different.

> Having great spelling, grammar and typing skills doesn't mean that you
> can easily adapt to using Emacs vs. vi, for example.

> Alex

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