März 28th, 2012 by Stefan Kottwitz
Today is the “Document Freedom Day”. Today, we can celebrate information accessibility, and we could raise awareness of open standards, which mean document formats which
- can fully publicly used without constraints,
- don’t have dependencies on formats or protocols that are not open,
- are legally and technically unlimited in utilisation,
- are maintained and further developed independently of any single vendor
- and are available in various implementations by competing vendors or just freely available.
Let’s look at TeX and LaTeX. The source document format is plain text, usable on any platform. Only the encoding can be a small issue between operating systems or editors, which can be handled by freely available conversion tools. Furthermore, Unicode text is commonly supported today. But ASCII still works everywhere, while Unicode is convenient.
And the output? Well, PDF is commonly chosen today and widely supported, though I would not call it an open standard, just in parts. However, we have the source, and we still have the DVI format. I wish there were better onscreen display programs.
With nonfree document formats, TeX and LaTeX would hardly be as useful as today, compatible and cross-platform. I can work with my up to 16 year old LaTeX documents in best quality on any hardware today – try it with so old Word or Works files.
For general information regarding free documents and open standards, have a look at documentfreedom.org.