Should Grand Lodge make Freemasons upgrade their software?

I was asked by a fellow Freemason to assist him with two Grand Lodge forms he had received by email. This article is about what I found.

Both communications had been sent as “.docx” files.

MS Office used to make up the majority of Office software. That majority has declined in recent years through several factors, not least being the
incompatability that the old versions of MSOffice have in reading the modern “.docx” files. The general attitude is "buy the new version".

On trying to read the two files that my friend had received my old MS Office 2007 failed miserably, loading them as page after page of “Goobly
Gook” - a non computer phrase for incomprehensible rubbish.  The 3 pages of tables became 216 pages long, and the letter and 6 pages of lists
expanded to 188 pages of GG.

A quick change of computer and my newest Windows (7 professional) and MS Word opened them up as 3 and 7 pages and I believe correctly.

So by sending out “docx” files Grand Lodge are in fact making it essential for older software to be updated. How many of our older members have
up to date equipment?  Is that what it seems or is there a way around this.

I use fairly modern computers, and have used Linux for years as my principal operating system. I also use Windows 7. However MS Office is not
available on Linux, and I have used LibreOffice and its forerunners - OpenOffice and Star Office for over 25 years, to great satisfaction to myself. In
fact I have LibreOffice on all my computers - Windows and Linux. It is Open Source software and therefore FREE to download and update. You
even get it on those DVDs on Magazines. Grand Lodge could even make the download available on its website as for Adobe Reader. If it used it
instead of MS Office it could give all Freemasons the software and its upgrades free for perpetuity. In addition thay could update their system at no
cost and on all their computers.

The above incident is eerily reminiscent of another over 20 years ago when I was called in by a friend whose company could not read the latest file
from a client who had just updated his MSOffice, and they had not. I was succesful in reading the file with StarOffice in the then new ".doc" format
and converting it to the old Word format for him. He of course had to update his MSOffice immediately at cost.

This time using LibreOffice to convert the 7 page document ".docx" file 7 pages were loaded, but there were small variations - mostly where the
font Calibri was used. The document could still be used without editing.

The 3 page document ran over on every page by just a line. A quick overall change of font from Calibri to Arial led this document to be 1 line over
all. Easily edited out. It appears that the new Calibri and Anandale Microsft copyright fonts are structured to be different to the old Arial and Times
New Roman and so do not format the same way. That is a method to protect their ".docx" format.

From this those with old computer software would they be better to get the free open source LibreOffice and use that to read Grand Lodge files in
“.docx” format and edit them to "Open Document format" or old ".doc" format?

However, should Grand Lodge expect that - I say “NO”.

Grand Lodge should be saving and sending files in a format that all can read. As “.docx” is a propriety Microsoft format which other software
houses have to pay for converters it should not be used. In the late 1990s some Australian states dictated that PDF files should be used. Adobe
Reader is free software to read the files. Virtually all Office software, perhaps with the exception of MS, have converters which save their files as
PDF files.

This quote from <> provides further comment

PDFs are essential for business and legal documents and forms that are intended to retain their exact visual appearance. These are the important
documents that must retain their integrity and security. With the PDF format, corporates can secure the documents so that no one can change
the wording of an application or the terms of an agreement.

It seemed that PDF knew what existing challenges were that corporates faced in context of adoption of a standard. PDF took care of lingering
need of security to reduced document size and portability to a print friendly content. When compared to MS Word, the advantages were very

Almost every computer has the free Adobe Reader loaded on it at source. This software has been provided free by Adobe for around 25 years. It is
the standard file types that manuals are now provided digitally. If one does not have it it is available for download on many websites.

Is this the only option, for PDF files are not as easily used as editable forms? The answer is no, there are two other options that Grand Lodge may

The first is a retrograde step, and that is to save the documents in the old “.doc” format that was so universally used at the turn of the century.
Any old MS Office, and its alternatives, will read these perfectly, that is if the old fonts are used (Arial, Times New Roman etc.). The problem with
receiving “.doc” files is that they can be a security risk. This is unlikely if one knows the source. For “Research by Symantec MessageLabs in
February 2011 has revealed that almost 60% of the incoming security threats they measure are currently caused by legacy binary office formats
(notably Microsoft .doc and .xls-files.“

The second is to use the Open Document format. This is the open standard the industry adopted in  2005 as an ISO standard. Early MS Office
2007 seemed to have saved this as a Wordpad file retaining all the formatting etc.(see list below). It is a format that is being increasingly adopted
throughout the world. For instance -

NATO with its 28 members (Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey,
the UK, and the USA) uses ODF as a mandatory standard for all members.

In addition to NATO, this following list of users add more - European Union, South Africa, Japan, Malaysia, India, Russia, South Korea, Belgium,
Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia,  Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway, Russia,
Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Also many regions including Andalusia, Assam, Extremadura, Hong Kong, Kerala,
Massachusetts, Misiones in Argentina, Munich, Paraná etc.etc.

Software that is fully compliant with the format are -

Adobe Buzzword
Apache OpenOffice
Atlantis Word Processor
Bean (software)
Calibre ebook viewer, converter, editor, and manager
Calligra Suite
Corel WordPerfect Office X6
Google Docs
IBM Lotus Symphony
Inkscape exports .odg
Microsoft Office 2003 and Office XP (with the Open Source OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-in for Office)
Microsoft Office 2007 (with Service Pack 2 or 3) supports ODF 1.1 (Windows only)
Microsoft Office 2010 supports ODF 1.1 (Windows only)
Microsoft Office 2013 supports ODF 1.2 (Windows only)
Microsoft Office 2016 supports ODF 1.2 (Windows: read/write; OS X: read-only after online conversion
Microsoft OneDrive / Office Web Apps
Scribus imports .odt and .odg
SoftMaker Office
Sun Microsystems StarOffice
WordPad 6.1 (Windows 7) partial support.
Zoho Office Suite

Various organizations have announced development of conversion software (including plugins and filters) to support OpenDocument on Microsoft's
products. As of July 2007, there are nine packages of conversion software. Microsoft first released support for the OpenDocument Format in
Office 2007 SP2. However, the implementation faced substantial criticism and the ODF Alliance and others claimed that the third party plugins
provided better support. Microsoft Office 2010 can open and save OpenDocument Format documents natively, although not all features are

Starting with Mac OS X 10.5, the TextEdit application and Quick Look preview feature support the OpenDocument Text format.


The provisos after Microsoft products that they are "Windows only" from MS Office 2007 onwards would seem to confirm that the Calibri and
Anadale font problem is known..

An excellent video into the basic differences of .docx and Open Document format can be found here. Go to video

Difference and development

Open Document Format is continually being improved and open source converters instantly made available, as are updated free open source office
suites, and at a cost commercial ones i.e. from IBM, Corel etc. But is it a better format than ".docx". Microsoft would say no, and one would be
silly to contradict unless an acknowledged expert and then beware of the legal consequences. There are many ways to be better or worse. History
points out that the file definitions provided to that conference in 2005 was contained in a document massively larger than the Open Document
Format. How do files sizes for the ODF and OOXML compare is size -

"The XML description of a document written by LibreOffice is 50% smaller in the case of ODF (ODT), and around 90% smaller in the case of
OOXML (DOCX), in comparison with the same document generated by the leading proprietary office suite"

John's World

Thanks to the efforts of developers, the XML description of a new document written by LibreOffice is 50% smaller in the case of ODF (ODT), and
around 90% smaller in the case of OOXML (DOCX), in comparison with the same document generated by the leading proprietary office suite.
Additional details in the file simplicity backgrounder:<>


Grand Lodge has 6 options -

1. Continue as is - no cost to Grand Lodge unless printed & mailed out to some members - updates required for those members to read files
2. Convert to PDF then send - no cost to everyone
3. Convert to “.doc” then send - security risk but no cost to all
4. Convert all outgoing to Open Document format & send - no cost to all
5. Change from MSOffice to other Commercial software which do Open Document Format better - i.e Corel Wordperfect Office, IBM Lotus Symphony
6. Decide to reduce costs to almost zero and change to Open Source Software Office programs - LibreOffice/OpenOffice org etc.

As mentioned above there are also software file converters and readers available to members for ".docx" files, but almost all have a cost, and add an
extra operation. Anyway why should we the members have to convert to a usable format. Gone are the days of relying on a propriety format to ensure
that we do not loose our textual heritage, or more important to be non compliant to all other users.

The digital file era seems a step backwards to the written page which all can read at present and in the future and it will remain so until a universal
digital file type is accepted and used by all.
"We have compared the length of the XML source code of a two page text file (using “lorem ipsum” fake text, to avoid language-based artefacts) created from scratch with several versions of LibreOffce and the last version of Microsoft Offce."