Send me attachments I can read, use Open Standards!

Originally published by Hugo Roy under the terms of
Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France

There are many ways to share documents, files and data over the Internet. Among them, emails are often used because people can communicate from one mail server1 to another without any difficulty. Why does it work so simply? Because emails are designed to use a set of Open Standards2, based on the Internet protocols.

However, sometimes people send attachments along with their emails, and it happens frequently that the attachments cannot be read by the recipients. For example, many attached files are documents produced by word processors and it can be impossible to read them correctly if you do not have the same word processor. Many proprietary word processors use proprietary file formats3. In 2002, a campaign was started to put an end to Word attachments. But the same is true for all kinds of documents and files: texts, spreadsheets, slides, videos, etc.

When you attach a file to an email, please make sure that your correspondent will be able to read your files correctly. It is a basic principle of courtesy. And there is an easy way to make this possible: use Open Standards. If you do so, your correspondent will have the possibility to choose which program he or she wants. Open Standards guarantee sustainability and interoperability for your data, making sure you will be able to access them in the future, even with another software, on another platform or operating system.

Moreover, by promoting Open Standards you will help everyone: sharing documents can be as easy as sending and receiving emails! If you receive an email using proprietary file formats, don't hesitate to share this page and explain why it is important to use Open Standards.

Campaigns for Open Standards

On Document Freedom Day, the FSF started a campaign to call on computer users to start politely rejecting proprietary attachments.

Organisations and Software supporting Open Standards

  1. ^ Mail servers transfer emails from one computer to another. For more information, you can check Wikipedia
  2. ^ Open Standards are protocols and file formats that can be freely used and implemented, and are designed in an open process. For more information, see the Open Standards definition.
  3. ^ Microsoft Office by default save your files in the ".doc" format or the ".docx" format. If you share these documents with people using different word processors, it will not work properly. Good alternatives for Microsoft Word are documents in .RTF or in .ODT (use the "Save As" feature)