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Distributing Word documents is bad for you.


One of my favourite Open Source advocates, Richard M. Stallman, explains in a NewsForge article the burden of receiving email with Word documents :

Most computer users use Microsoft Word. That is unfortunate for them, because Word is proprietary software, denying its users the freedom to study, change, copy, and redistribute it. And because Microsoft changes the Word file format with each release, its users are locked into a system that compels them to buy each upgrade whether they want a change or not. They may even find, several years from now, that the Word documents they are writing this year can no longer be read with the version of Word they use then.

Distributing documents in Word format is bad for you and for others. You can't be sure what they will look like if someone views them with a different version of Word; they may not work at all.

Receiving Word attachments is bad for you because they can carry viruses (see Symantec's article). Sending Word attachments is bad for you, because a Word document normally includes hidden information about the author, enabling those in the know to pry into the author's activities (maybe yours). Text that you think you deleted may still be embarrassingly present. See MicroSystems for more info.

But above all, sending people Word documents puts pressure on them to use Microsoft software and helps to deny them any other choice. In effect, you become a buttress of the Microsoft monopoly. This pressure is a major obstacle to the broader adoption of free software. Would you please reconsider the use of Word format for communication with other people?