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Author Topic: alternative to Word  (Read 2417 times)

sledgehammer

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alternative to Word
« on: May 20, 2009, 05:44:47 pm »

I have been asked by a local court which has recently switched to electronic filing (to save time and trees) to provide some input into a problem: 

About half the lawyers in town use Word, and the other half mostly Word Perfect.  The court in question uses Word and has used it for 12 years. It does not have funds to purchase licensing for Word Perfect. 

Documents presented for filing are presented in PDF format (only).  Proposed orders are usually submitted with the document, also in pdf format.  However, it would be nice if the Court, on occasion, could edit an order before entering it.  For example, instead of "Plaintiff wins," the court might be disposed to say "Plaintiff loses."  If it had the ability to edit the proposed order, the Court could occasionally save some time.  However, though its staff is forced by the purchasing Gods to use Word, fairness to those who use better or cheaper word processors is the court's goal.

I am thinking of recommending that it accept proposed orders via email in both Word and txt format. Or perhaps Word, txt and odt format.  But before recommending odt format, which, I believe, is now used by Open Office, K Word, Abiword, IBM Lotus Symphony, and perhaps others, I would want to be fairly sure that someone could not arbitrarily change the odt format around, making odt files un-usable or un-readable 10 or 50 years from now. I am innocent of knowledge about open source software licensing.

Right now, electronic filing is not mandatory.  However, it may become mandatory in a few years. I am therefore also a little concerned that if I recommend Word and txt only, the Court might somehow, someday, be brought into the Microsoft monopoly wars and end up paying damages to European users of, say, Word Perfect.

I will be checking into sources that might educate me about all this in the next few days.  Meanwhile, I would most welcome suggestions from anyone.

John
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no2thesame

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2009, 12:06:33 am »

Hello John,
I would want to be fairly sure that someone could not arbitrarily change the odt format around, making odt files un-usable or un-readable 10 or 50 years from now.
This is precisely why odt was invented, an open standard that could not be rendered unreadable. Saying that, I don't think you can edit it in MS Word.
Quote
I am thinking of recommending that it accept proposed orders via email in both Word and txt format.
These are both fairly easily altered which is why pdf is used.
Quote
Documents presented for filing are presented in PDF format (only).  Proposed orders are usually submitted with the document, also in pdf format.  However, it would be nice if the Court, on occasion, could edit an order before entering it.
I remember reading that you can edit pdf in KWord although you really shouldn't because pdf is used so you can be assured that it is 'unchanged'. However OpenOffice has one-click production of pdf files so if the person who wrote the original document was available, they would simply edit the odt file (that the pdf was made from) and then create a new pdf.
Quote
Right now, electronic filing is not mandatory.  However, it may become mandatory in a few years. I am therefore also a little concerned that if I recommend Word and txt only, the Court might somehow, someday, be brought into the Microsoft monopoly wars and end up paying damages to European users of, say, Word Perfect.
Sometime in "10 or 50 years from now" there will be no MS monopoly to wage war.  :)
Bruce
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tomh38

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2009, 06:55:54 am »

In 10 or 50 years from now we'll either have neural implants or be roasting rats over car fires to survive.  Or maybe something different.

Would you like something to drink?  I have Soylent Cola, and Slurm.  Oh, if you want a beer I have some Guinness Stout.

Tom
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M0E-lnx

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2009, 07:05:10 am »

LOL @ Tom.

All jokes aside, I think OOo odt is the closest you're going to get to word. And the fact that it can export to PDF might actually make it a more viable option than that of word.

Just my $0.02

nightflier

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2009, 07:33:38 am »

Dibs on the Stout! (if it's the traditional one, not the wimpy 250th anniversary edition)

Adding my vote for ODT. I understand the whole idea behind it is that it will remain a usable format for the future, and not dependent on the charity of any one company or entity.

OO.o will read (but not create) WP documents.
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sledgehammer

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2009, 05:02:14 pm »

Thanks for all the comments.  I think the intent is, after the proposed order is edited and signed by the Court, to save it to pdf for electronic filing (court no longer keeps a paper copy if the document is electronically filed).

If the court would adopt open office, that would probably do the trick.  Then the attorneys could send in wpd or Word or text, the court could edit in open office, and then save to pdf for filing.

I will give this some more thought, but I think the solution is pretty clear. However, telling a court to drop a word processor it has been using for 12 years might not sit real well.

John
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rbistolfi

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2009, 08:04:43 pm »

The advantages of the ODT formats are many. Some are technical and some not. For instance, it is lot more easy to rescue information from a .odt document if the file gets corrupted. I think some one trained could do a good argument about why a public institution should use standard open formats instead proprietary ones. I can only say that feels right to me.
One thing I would do is to digitaly sign the files, whatever format they could have. The gpg howto is a bit long, but maybe its value will return the investment.
http://www.dewinter.com/gnupg_howto/english/GPGMiniHowto.html
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sledgehammer

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2009, 10:15:24 pm »

Thanks rbistolfi,

I am sure you are right.  And I think those who tout Open Office are right also...and that the new open office 3.0 is a good program and all that, but there seems to be this urge on the part of those who make these programs to make sure that no one can just use them....that they can't just be Shakespeare or Bacon or Hemmingway....unless they learn code.  For example, OO3.0 out of the box (from the repositories) does not have a speller, nor any easy help way to add one.  Instead, in my case at least, I had to wait a month or so until finally a secretary complained that OO 3.0 had no speller.  Not using OO much myself, I stupidly had assumed it would come with one, as had earlier versions.  So I figured a bad download or some such.  I then fired it up and discovered that I didn't have one on my Open Office either.  So after unsuccessfully trying to add one, I downloaded to OO 2.4, which had one installed by default and had everyone use that.  I then happened upon a post to this forum     
Quote
OpenOffice 3.0, Installing Dictionaries and Fonts

posted by no2thesame back in November, which showed an easy way to add the speller.  I have done that and now everyone is using 3.0 again.  WHY, WHY TO THESE PROGRAMMERS MAKE THINGS SO DIFFICULT? NOT DIFFICULT FOR THEM, BUT DIFFICULT FOR THOSE WHO, AS MY STAFF, ARE GOOD AT SOMETHING OTHER THAN CODE.  Its like a bunch of high school kids who fight over who gets to sit at the "best" table at lunch. Those who know code can sit there.  Others are at a less popular table. As I don't use Word at all, I don't know, but I bet it comes with a speller, or at least with directions on how to add one.
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sledgehammer

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #8 on: May 26, 2009, 03:26:18 am »

Postscript:

I submitted my suggestion, being that the Court should accept documents which it may want to edit in Word (.doc) and Open Document (.odt) format.

John
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tomh38

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2009, 07:34:22 am »

sledgehammer,

For after the apocalypse, I'm working on an organic processor which will be a bunch of rats daisy-chained together to do parallel processing.  But dude ... I'm really sorry to have to tell you this ... but we're going with LaTeX.

On the plus side, things will be pretty lawless, so we could use a good lawyer like you.

Tom
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rbistolfi

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Re: alternative to Word
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 08:16:50 am »

Thanks rbistolfi,

I am sure you are right.  And I think those who tout Open Office are right also...and that the new open office 3.0 is a good program and all that, but there seems to be this urge on the part of those who make these programs to make sure that no one can just use them....that they can't just be Shakespeare or Bacon or Hemmingway....unless they learn code.  For example, OO3.0 out of the box (from the repositories) does not have a speller, nor any easy help way to add one.  Instead, in my case at least, I had to wait a month or so until finally a secretary complained that OO 3.0 had no speller.  Not using OO much myself, I stupidly had assumed it would come with one, as had earlier versions.  So I figured a bad download or some such.  I then fired it up and discovered that I didn't have one on my Open Office either.  So after unsuccessfully trying to add one, I downloaded to OO 2.4, which had one installed by default and had everyone use that.  I then happened upon a post to this forum     
Quote
OpenOffice 3.0, Installing Dictionaries and Fonts

posted by no2thesame back in November, which showed an easy way to add the speller.  I have done that and now everyone is using 3.0 again.  WHY, WHY TO THESE PROGRAMMERS MAKE THINGS SO DIFFICULT? NOT DIFFICULT FOR THEM, BUT DIFFICULT FOR THOSE WHO, AS MY STAFF, ARE GOOD AT SOMETHING OTHER THAN CODE.  Its like a bunch of high school kids who fight over who gets to sit at the "best" table at lunch. Those who know code can sit there.  Others are at a less popular table. As I don't use Word at all, I don't know, but I bet it comes with a speller, or at least with directions on how to add one.

Well yeah. To be honest, I dont use OpenOffice a lot and I was thinking less in the word processor than in the file format (odt is a zipped xml file plus the attached binary content like images and embedded objects the document may have). That means that if the odt file gets corrupted, you can always unzip it and get some of the info if needed (actually with patience and assistance you should be able to get all the plain text content only losing the formatting).
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"There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite."
Jorge Luis Borges, Avatars of the Tortoise.

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