Friday, January 17, 2003

It's Bill Gates's planet. The rest of us are just visiting. For many years now, I've been able to lead a digital life pretty much free of Microsoft's bloated, expensive products. I use a translation program called MacLinkPlus so that my MS Word-using editors can read my AppleWorks-generated files, and though the solution isn't perfect, it's been good enough.

Now, though, I'm dealing with an editor who wants me to be able to take advantage of Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" function. I've never seen it, never mind used it, but apparently it will allow him to make comments and changes on my files in one color, and for me to respond in yet another color. Actually, it sounds pretty cool. But no matter how we've tried to translate each other's files, it comes up in black and white on my screen.

The point is that the single biggest value of having a standard is that -- well, it's a standard. Much as I prefer AppleWorks, as long as 95 percent of the universe is using Word, my recalcitrance makes life more difficult both for my editors and myself. I probably can't hold out forever. And thus does Bill Gates chalk up another small victory.

Later today I'm going to try a free trial version of something called ThinkFree Office. It's supposed to be 100 percent file-compatible with Microsoft Office. Since this is something other Mac users would be interested in, I'll post a follow-up describing the results.

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