Why not MS Office Formats?

Many of us have developed a fine talent in formatting documents in MS Word (DOC), Powerpoint (PPT), and Excel (XLS). Here are a few points to ponder when preparing documents and particularly when sharing it with others through Email. This is a request to please consider other open source formats and using a PDF, JPEG image, or simply a plain text for Email communication. Some reasons often cited are:

  1. PPT/DOC/XL are proprietary formats and requires MS Office license to view and edit. Very few people have a licensed copy of MS Office suite. This therefore encourages piracy. Also, non MS-windows users (not uncommon in an institution such as ours) cannot easily read such documents.
  2. PPT/DOC/XL is a file format that can be edited. A one way information, that does not require the recipient to edit and send back, can be better sent in PDF or images format that can be easily viewed in any platform (even other than windows).
  3. PPT/DOC/XL can be used to transmit unintentional Macro Viruses, when your recipient opens it.
  4. Opening a document formated in PPT/DOC/XL file takes considerably more time than a simple image/PDF or plain text (that could have been mentioned in the email itself).
  5. The size of a PPT/DOC/XL can be considerably large compared to a simple PDF or an image. Sharing it with others, particularly when sent to email lists, results in unnecessary Bandwidth reduction, however minor.

What are the Alternatives ?

Are there any alternatives that can be used that is FREE (without requiring any license, easy to use, and not wrought with these difficulties. Here are a few:

  1. Openoffice.org This is a MS Office like suite, that is open source, and is available for all platforms (Windows, Linux, MAC, Solaris). It natively supports converting to PDF format, which can be read and printed without requiring any license.
  2. Google Docs It is a online document preparation and sharing system. No hassles of loss of data on local disk crashes, access anytime, anywhere: not tied to your home/office desktop. Secure. It is among the best FREE tool available for collaborative editing of documents. For most common tasks Google Docs seems the way to go forward.
  3. Upload the document to a public server and share the link. Google Docs itself allows restricted sharing of uploaded files.