Why I wish I could reject your email attachment

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today launched a campaign calling on all computer users to start politely rejecting email attachments sent in secret and proprietary formats: for freedom and the good of the web!Β  I believe that open standards are the best form to convey information and I think that attachments contribute to spread proprietary formats.

Unfortunately I think that this campaign cannot be joined by mobile phone users because it’s damaging them. None of the mobile operating systems I have stumbled upon offers support for OO.org. Maybe on Android there is a way to read attached ODF files, but through Google Docs (support of Impress file format is missing, though). ODF support on BlackBerry was announced but I couldn’t find mention on their website. I think Meego (formerly known as Maemo) has native support for ODF, but very few people use it. Not sure about other OSes. A search for OpenOffice.org/ODF on Nokia Ovi Store produced no result. That alone excludes 40% of European mobile phone users (millions of people, including me) from joining this campaign. I wish I could join this campaign, but for me is still impossible to view an .odt or .opd on the move, so I prefer to receive a .doc or .ppt that I can use on my OpenOffice.org desktop and also look at it on my phone.

Mobile users still have too little freedom to reject proprietary formats. For Document Freedom Day I would like to add a new item to the FSF’s list of priorities: support for ODF on mobile operating systems, from Android to Symbian to others.

via Why I’m rejecting your email attachment β€” Free Software Foundation.




  1. Alexandre: while it’s a fact that it’s possible to run AbiWord on a few hundred OpenMoko phones out there, I doubt that you can call that an option.

    I think that the timing of this campaign is skewed: before asking a big sacrifice to all the people that already use OO.org, but also use to receive attachments on mobile devices, we should make it a priority to fully enjoy open formats on those devices.

  2. Chicken and egg? Why would handcufphone vendors add support for a Free format if we didn’t mind that they kept us handcuffed? They already won’t let us add it ourselves! Besides, one campaing doesn’t exclude the other. The campaign for Free Software on all computing devices has been ongoing for 25+ years! The problem is the non-Free Software on the device. Maybe the solution, until more phones are Free, is to use phones as just phones, and have other portable computers around in which you can Be Free! Maybe it’s something else. But of one thing I’m sure: accepting to live with the problem and insisting that others do so too won’t fix it, it’ll rather make it worse. And while we can’t control the locked-up devices, we can (often) control our own choices, so we should use our power and freedom of choice cleverly, in a way that brings us closer to the solution. Rejecting the devices and the files are both smart uses of this power. Accepting them and promoting their acceptance works against us. It might be more comfortable for you, but it’s also more comfortable for the vendors who want to keep on imposing their choices on you, and on everyone else.

  3. it’s not a chicken and egg. You can easily install free software to any phone now. Many good and (almost) free/libre mobile OS exist already (see Bradley’s post). The only thing missing is a free sw reader for ODF on at least some of these OSes in order for this campaign to be widely adopted.

  4. Did you know that the top of this article is obscured by a graphic whinging that mobile javascript is switched off on my phone’s browser? Ironic, given the context. Physician, heal thyself!

    It shouldn’t be too hard to get ODT files readable on mobiles with an sxw2text approach, if that would be enough.

  5. @MJ I didn’t know about the graphic. I’ll do some test.

    I think that the sxw2text approach would be enough for text attachments, but it would leave open the issue with spreadsheets and presentations.