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Still More on Living Microsoft Free

Charles Moore - 2002.04.15 - Tip Jar

RE: Why I live Microsoft Free

From: David Shroder


I could not possibly agree more [with WhyI Live Microsoft Free]. My wife urged me to write you, as Iam normally reticent to bother people who get tons of email in thenormal course of their lives. This, however, is a topic upon which Ican almost wax poetic.

I have been programming professionally for 22 years. Everythingfrom mainframes to minis to micros (regrettably never on Macs). Forall that time I have intentionally worked on M/S products for onlyone year, and that was during a period of significant financialdistress. My first home computer was an Amiga 1000 that my wife and Ireceived as a wedding present. She thought it was too geeky andeventually bought a used MacSE/30. The only M/S product I would let her put on it was Word,and even that was a struggle.

I have watched M/S issue a new piece of c**p every year andgrimaced at the waste I see in offices and among my friends. Iremember when the first of my friends bought an IBM PC in 1982. Irecall being jealous that he could afford the $6,500 price tag. Thatwas until I got a chance to sit down with it for a few hours andrealized what a piece of junk I was looking at. The Apple II, neverthe most inspiring platform, was elegant in comparison.

My favorite bad PC story is the time that my buddies, all of whomown PCs, decided that they wanted to get all their computersnetworked together to play MechWarrior. After 8 hours they were stilltrying to get all the computers to talk on the network, much lessplay the game. The only time I ever had trouble networking our Macsat home was when the network card in my computer got electrocuted bya lightning bolt. It literally takes five minutes to put a Mac on anetwork. A wonderful thing.

I have been and still am continually amazed at the stupidity ofpeople who will upgrade a faulty M/S product to the latest andgreatest faulty product and then wonder why they still haveapplication crashes, still suffer from virus attacks, and stillrequire one systems administrator for every ten PCs.

I bought my first Mac in 1996. My second about a month ago(a new iMac, geez is this thingcool!) I don't know a single PC user that has been able to use his PCwith the latest OS, much less the latest bloatware, without anupgrade. Now admittedly, my Performa couldn't have run OS Xeither, but in reality there was no need. I got a new computerbecause the flat-screen iMac is almost perfect for what I need acomputer for.

And the best part is that I can continue to get along totallywithout Microsoft.

Dave Shroder

Hi Dave,

Always glad to hear from readers, and regards to your wife.

Some years ago, we had a 286 PC and two MacPluses here. The contrast between the lovely little Macs andthe "standard of the world" was massively in the Macs' favor. That286 was a piece of . . . you know. ;-) It'slong and mercifully gone, but the Pluses are still here and stillwork.


Micro$oft Free, Word 5 notes

From: Andrew Main


I was reading your recent "Micro$oft Free" columns and noted amention of a "patch" to allow Word 5 to run in recent OS versions. Sofar as I know, there is no specific incompatibility with Word and anylate Mac OS version, only a possible problem running on anyPowerPC-based Mac, which is addressed by a freeware extension. See myWord 5 essay below.

Do you happen to know of any website/s dedicated to the concept ofMicro$oft-freeness? I'm collecting reasons for an essay to distributeto my Mac clients. I remember a one-time site called "AOL Sucks"(haven't looked for it since I quit AOL several years back), andwonder if there might be anything similar addressed to Micro$oftquestions.

About Word 5 compatibility

So far as I know, M$ Word 5 can run on any Macintosh from a Plusto a G4. (I suppose it could even run in Classic under OS X, ifyou really want to.) Some notes:

  1. If you have Word 5.0, it's a good idea to update it to 5.1a,the final version of generation 5. I don't remember exactly whatthe differences were (I never used the program myself) but believethey were significant. Unfortunately, a quick look at Micro$oft'sWeb site (I don't like to spend any more time there than I haveto, not knowing what information is being collected from me whileI'm there) failed to locate any 5.0 to 5.l updater (see below).Perhaps, as with WriteNow, there is some private Word 5 user whooffers such support.
  2. Word 5 is, of course, a 68K app, so runs in emulation mode ona PowerPC-based Mac, where it's not entirely happy, sometimesshowing a message that it cannot start up because there's notenough memory (it requires all of 1 MB by default). Afreeware extension named "FixWordSystemMemory" prevents thisglitch. For some reason, Version Tracker and MacDownload don'tseem to have this invaluable fix, but it can be found at theauthor's Web page <>
  3. One of the nicest things about Word 5, besides the fact thatit doesn't require 100 MB of disk space and 20 MB of RAM to run ona 500 MHz Mac, is that - since it doesn't have the macrofunctionality of Word 6 & later - it isn't vulnerable to themultitude of cross-platform Micro$oft-specific macro "viruses"that are the only serious class of pathogens in the Macenvironment these days. However, keep in mind that, as withMicro$oft Outlook Express, Word 5 can pass on such viruses indocuments received from later & PC versions that harborthem.
  4. Despite all the wonderful features of later versions(especially for those unfortunate Mac users who are burdened withextra, unused memory), Word 5 has remained amazingly popular foran "obsolete" application, so much so that Micro$oft apparentlyfelt obliged to provide ways for Word 5 to open documents producedin later versions. This back-compatibility is available for Word 6& 98 docs (& PC equivalents) but not later versions (suchas Word 2000), so far as I know. Of course, if you open a Word 6or 98 document in Word 5, you may lose high-end formatting andfeatures that the earlier application doesn't recognize, but notthat many people use these features anyway - which is why Word 5is still a very usable application.
    1. For the Word 6 to 5 converter, go to <>.Do a search for "Product Name: Word 5.0" in "Operating System:Macintosh." The first item in the list is the updater to patchWord 5.1 to 5.1a. There doesn't seem to be an updater from 5.0to 5.1, I don't know why. The second item, "Word 6.0/7.0Updated 32-bit Converter (Mswrd32.exe)" contains utilities thatallow Word 5 to open documents created in Word 6/7 forMacintosh or Windows. Basically, this is a set of translatorfiles that go into the "Word Commands" folder in Word 5'sfolder. (Despite the ".exe" in the name, this is a Macintoshfile.)
    2. For the Word 98 &c converter, go to <>.Under Office 98, get the "Microsoft Word 97-98-2000 Converter."Again, this is a set of translator files that go into the "Wordcommands" folder in Word 5's folder, along with a BatchConverter utility.
  5. Keep in mind that Word 5, like most Macintosh programs, worksbest when the application is in the same folder with its otherparts, including the "Word Commands" folder. If it is outside itsfolder, it won't be able to find its spelling checker, converters,etc. If you want a quick way to open Word (or any other app) fromthe Desktop or Apple menu, make an alias to put in thoseplaces.

Andrew Main

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for all the helpful Word 5 information.

I don't know of any specifically Micro$oft-free Websites, but it'sa good idea!


Editor's note: Give LivingWithout Microsoft a try, although the emphasis is far more onWindows hardware than on Macs.

Living Microsoft Free

From Brian Warren

Two things for you:

For your Word needs:

Have you considered ICWord?It's a great shareware program made just for opening MS Worddocuments, you can print, or save as text, rtf, AppleWorks, etc.

It opens super-fast, and works like a charm. I'm not sure if itwill open Word 5.1 docs, but I haven't found a Word doc I couldn'topen yet.

For Steve Wassenich, who needed to do presentations: My companyneeds me to do a "PowerPoint," but I convinced them to let me do apresentation in Flash instead. The files that Flash exports can beopened without a Web browser. You can tell flash to expand to fullscreen and hide the cursor so as to be in "presentation mode."

The saturation of people having the Flash 5 plugin is immense, sothere is no worry that the people on the receiving end wouldn't beable to use the presentation file (it's only a 1 MB download ifthey do need it). As well, the capabilities of Flash are far beyondthat of PowerPoint or Apple works. I can embed movies, and have fullscreen animations, the possibilities are quite great. And the filesize is so incredibly small, I can just email it to my boss forproofing!

No need for us to lay down the cash to get Microsoft programs whenthe solution is right there in flash.

take care,
Brian Warren

Hi Brian,

Yes, I've tried icWord and it works great.

Thanks for the presentation tips.


Microsoft "crap?"

From Beautiful Voice

I suppose I applaud you for living "Microsoft-free". Personally,I've never really had any terrible problems with any of Microsoftproducts, nor have I noticed significant changes in systemperformance with or without Microsoft software on my system, whetherit be a Mac or an Intel box.

As for Microsoft's business ethics, don't fool yourself. Applewould do the same thing if it had the market share that Microsoftdid. Furthermore, the idea that Microsoft should open it's softwareup to it's competitors is preposterous. This is the world ofbusiness, not the playmat in your Pre-K, as some would have youbelieve.

People complain about the security holes in Windows XP, but Iwould bet there are just as many security holes in OS X (andmany more in Linux). The simple fact is that because Microsofthas a product that is relatively stable, runs on the majority ofboxes, is centralized and updated frequently, makes Microsoftthe majority OS. Therefore, since it is the majority, it has the mostpeople attacking it. If everyone suddenly switched to the MacOS, Apple would be in the same predicament. If everyone suddenlyswitched to Linux, it would be a disaster, because the averagehome/business user doesn't have the knowledge it takes to do basictroubleshooting on a Linux box (something which concerns me to someextent about OS X, though with a "locked" GUI, this shouldn't bea big problem). Not to mention that Linux isn't "pretty" like OS X orWin XP.

Now don't get me wrong: I love the Mac OS, and I'm eager totry Mac OS X. Right now, I'm stuck using my friend's Win 98 box,but I'm in the market for a (used) Mac. I'll probably run IE on it,and possibly OE as well. I used Linux as well for several months onmy Mac without major problems (though there were always driversmissing). I don't do much heavy gaming, and the most processorintensive thing I probably do is some overdubbing of music. I can doanything I need on a Mac, Linux, or Windows box easily, but I chooseMac because I'm familiar with troubleshooting and generalprocedure.

As for Microsoft being evil, there are more important things inthe world to worry about. And besides, if you don't use it, whycomplain? Why assume the average person won't listen to logic? Mostpeople would love the Mac OS given a chance. Don't force it onthem.

Those who spell Microsoft with a $ obviously don't understand thatsoftware is a business. If you want to run freeware all over yourcomputer, fine, but who do you have to run to when your computercrashes?

The Beautiful Voice Admin

Hi BV,

If Apple behaved in the marketplace like Microsoft does, I wouldharshly criticize them, too. In fact, let the record speak thatI've never been an uncritical Apple cheerleader.

However, Microsoft's (lack of) business ethics and naked,hegemonistic ambition are repugnant.

Actually, Yellow Dog Linux 2.2 was released last week for the Mac.I have a review copy coming, and Kai Staats of YDL says that thenew Gnome GUI compares very favorably with OS X Aqua forprettiness. We shall see.

Another M$ issue that I simply will not tolerate is theirdraconian product activation copy protection protocols - andtheir soon to be subscription rather than licensing scheme forusers. No thanks! Not even if functionally their software was thebest in the world.

Which it isn't. My son works for Microsoft's subcontractor doingtech support for Windows XP eight hours a day, and he says theproblems are just desperate. He still uses a Mac (OS X on a333 MHz Lombard PowerBook)for his personal computing and has no intention of switching toWindows even though he can get a massive discount on Dell hardwarethrough M$.


Free your mind

From JF Paradis

Thank you Charles for your great article. The subject of livingMS-free should be brought up more often, and I invite you to addressall aspects of the this subject.

I too is MS-free . . . at home.

I am always amazed by how many people think the other way. I guessthat the IT press is so MS-focused (one press release a day, one badarticle a day, but talk about it) creates a whole set ofparadigms:

  • You are "safer" to install MS, just in case you need it.
  • Without MS, you are alienating yourself from the rest of theworld.
  • Others will not be able to use your work.
  • MS is what people already know how to use.
  • You have to train people if you don't run the MS version ofthe application.

And so on.


Re: Why I Live Microsoft Free

From Matthew Butch

Excellent article. I, too, am MS free (except for the stuffedWindows Media Player I need to view some videos I have). For my wordprocessing and spreadsheet needs, I use AppleWorks. If I need to givea presentation, AW has a slide show feature.

But what I really wanted to say is that you didn't mentionMacLinkPlus. Whenever I come across a Word or Excel document, I useit to convert the file to an AppleWorks document. It is a $100 pieceof software, but then that goes to a Mac company and not to MS.

Matthew Butch

Free State Project "Liberty in Our Lifetime"


From Louis Rifkin

Hi Charles,

If you do not know about it yet, you may want to consider tryingRagTime from BE Software <>Business Publishing Software or ComGrafix,Inc. (the North American distributor). Try it, and you'll likeit. I have been using this as my standard app. since version 2 - wayback in 1990 (I think). NisusWriter is also handy.

Just fyi.

Hi Louis,

Yes, I'm aware of RagTime and hope to review it soon.


Re: Microsoft crap

From: Matthew Chappell

"I don't use newsgroups myself, but I *think* that Mozilla/Netscapesupports them, and Mozilla might be a partial answer to yourbrowser dilemma as well. I really like it, especially theOS X version. I'll poll our readers in the newsgroup clientthing.

"As for Web archives, iCab supports them too, and there is even afree, downloadable utility that will convert IE Web archives toiCab."

G'day there Charles,

Thank you so much for getting back to me so soon! I wasn'texpecting anything for another couple of weeks yet . . . youmust be a very well organised person with your current workload. Iwish I was like that! I indeed will be getting copies of the programsyou mentioned, as soon as ER is over and everything is done.

I thought that Mozilla was a Windoze only application. And forsome reason, I thought it was a utility that helped downloads, uh,download faster. Gee, who ever said that you never learn anythinguseful on a Monday!

Thanks once again, and please keep up your excellent work anddefiance of the Dark Side.

Take care,
Matt Chappell

Re: More on Living Microsoft Free

From Stephen Ashton

Hi Charles,

"But with Internet surfing, I am forced to use Explorer. It isthe only browser that I know of that will save the entire contentsof a Web page and reproduce it off line accurately. I've triedNetscape and OmniWeb, but such facilities were not available.Unfortunately as well, Explorer was also faster.

"As for Web archives, iCab supports them, too, and there is even afree, downloadable utility that will convert IE Web archives toiCab."

How about using the "Print to PDF" feature available in OS X?I know that the links won't work and that you cannot easily copy thetext, but for basic offline reading it works - and it's M$-freecross-platform, too!

Thanks for your articles.

Stephen Ashton

Why I Live Microsoft Free - Typo ?

From Peter WA Wood

Dear Charles

It seems that time moves very slowly in Canada if a five year dealsigned in 1977 is going to run out in 2002! I suspect that you meant1997.

I'm no great fan of Microsoft but use Office 98 to share documentsand presentation with customers and associates. I've suffered fromthe Outlook Express email "database" problem on a couple of occasionsand wiped-out the whole lot. Perhaps I need to be more adventurouswhen considering email clients.


Peter Wood
Kuala Lumpur

Hi Peter,

Whoops! Yes, I meant 1997. :-b

One Outlook database wipeout would be one too many for me. None ofthe email programs I have used extensively has ever lost data onme: Eudora; Nisus Email; SweetMail.


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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at and a columnist at If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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