[lug] anyone familiar with Word file format issues?

D. Stimits stimits at idcomm.com
Thu Mar 14 02:00:55 MST 2002

Bear Giles wrote:
> > I'm curious, if I were to write a library that outputs some document
> > style as Word, has anyone heard whether MS would try to file a lawsuit
> > to stop it (think conversion utility)?
> That could be an interesting court case.  How could you claim that
> something infringes on your format if you have never publicly documented
> that format?

They would ask if I own Word, and if so, did I examine and reverse
engineer from it. I really don't want to try and figure out from a
binary file what is in it, but if it were published somewhere, I might
be interested. I could truthfully say no, but I would probably test the
export in an actual Word application. I have no interest in importing
Word. If not for recruiters and coaches telling me they hate PDF (they
don't seem to be aware that some people don't use windows), I wouldn't
care about the issue.

> It's a similiar argument to the one that you can't protest someone
> breaking into your system unless you clearly identify that who owns
> it - an "no unauthorized users" banner is meaningless if I reasonably
> believe that I've connected to my own system.

Microsoft, our own government, and a few others (many), have a habit of
going to court if there is any reason that it couldn't be considered
abuse of process, and win by sucking up the costs of defending oneself.
So I guess I'm not so much concerned about whether they could win, but
whether they would risk fighting it based on who has the bigger budget.
That leads me to wonder if anyone here has heard of MS cases where they
try to go to court over file formats that are in common use, similar to

> >  Though I suspect it wouldn't be
> > practical, the standards for it probably are not published, or if so,
> > probably incomplete or out of date.
> RTF format is documented, and there are some tools that can generate
> RTF output.  I've also been playing with some ingest tools - the format
> isn't complex, but it was obviously written by someone who has never
> written parsers.  (Correction: never written LALR(1) parsers with
> tools like yacc/lex.)

This could do the job (RTF), but I was hoping for something a bit more
sophisticated. Full control over fonts, headers, footers, columnar
output, maybe even embedding URL's for references, subscripts,
superscripts, tables, embedding images, so on. There seem to be apps
that import Word, but not many open source apps that export it. Star
Office might be a good place, I'm not sure if it is available in source
format (fear the download at 56k).

D. Stimits, stimits at idcomm.com

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