Today is Document Freedom Day. To celebrate, many of us open source netizens are doing the right thing and rejecting email attachments sent in proprietary formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Access – 95, 97-2003 and so on.

The campaign is quite simple: refuse locked-in file formats.

The Free Software Foundation has provided some interesting examples of “polite” rejections to send to people who have emailed an attachment with a proprietary file format.

It’s a difficult thing, to tell someone that you are rejecting their attachment through choice.  You fear that it comes across as being awkward.  Breaking the social “norm” and standing for something you believe in is rarely painless.

There are ways to deal with this though, and the best way is probably humour.  It’s a serious message, yes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be all haughty overtones and morally correct principles shoved in people’s faces.  Making it funny will make it stick just as well.

Here are a few of my suggestions for handling your email rejections with a bit of added spice.  It’s a safe assumption that your friend uses Microsoft Office, so you could include this link at the end (

  • “Thanks for your email attachment.  Unfortunately, my dog ate it. He likes anything that is completely unpalatable, especially proprietary file formats.  He doesn’t seem bothered at all with open standards formats like the ODF, though.  Could you re-send your file using that format please? “


  • “Thanks for the document.  Sadly, we do not use proprietary file formats any more as the internet has brought about a revolution in open document format usage.  It happened so quickly that no-one noticed!! Please could you re-send your file in Open Document Format (ODF)?..”
  • “Thanks for the information. Regrettably, I am unable to open this format of document because I have become enlightened.  In my new karmic state, I only desire peace and harmony, and closed-off formats disrupt my inner sanctum.  Please could you re-send this file in natural, organic and eco-friendly Open Document Format?”


And of course, you MUST MUST MUST include a link to the Document Freedom Day web site, or to the Free Software Foundation, or to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or to the Open Rights Group, or …


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