> Our biggest problem is to convert documents written in WinWord to the IETF
> ASCII format which is a non-trivial task. We are actually just now working
> on an informational RFC document, which describes the conversion process
> from WinWord to IETF format step-by-step. This might become one of your
> most popular documents once it is finished!
At my request, someone from Microsoft has also recently produced such
a document. I've asked the Internet-Drafts people and RFC Editor to
make them available to people in the same way as similar documents
describing how to generate RFCs using other word processors. (I'll
forward you a copy of this document in a separate message.)
> I hope you realize that some 90 % of the world's desktops and
> portables have WinWord as an application, and that only UNIX
> "hackers" can produce the IETF format with relative ease. Time for
> a rethink in the IETF?
IETF exists to allow network protocols to be implemented across all
platforms, not to produce protocols for a single vendor's platforms.
IETF documents need to be readable on all platforms and printable on
all printers. Plain ASCII text is the only format which is so widely
Even if 90% of the world's desktops and portables have WinWord
installed (which I doubt), this doesn't translate into 90% of the
world's protocol developers. Besides, ASCII is usable on nearly 100%
of the world's computing systems, and the other 10% is an important
I disagree that only UNIX hackers can easily produce the IETF format.
All it takes to submit an internet-draft is an ordinary text editor.
Last I knew, every DOS and Windows box came with one installed, and I
know they're available for Macs as well. Lots of people seem to use
them to write bare HTML (much to my surprise) because it gives them
more flexibility than is available with HTML editors.
The Internet-Draft format does require short lines and page breaks,
but it's hardly necessary that these be done perfectly -- the RFC
Editor generally has to do some minor editing anyway before the
document can be published, and can easily take care of such cleanup.
Lines can be broken by hitting the RETURN key at the end of each line,
and page breaks can be inserted by a simple post-processor. (Even
nroff requires post-processing to clean up page breaks, so UNIX
hackers are no better off.) Text editors don't do section numbering
either, but even though nroff does have section numbering, I've hardly
ever used it when writing RFCs.
I can understand how experienced WinWord users might feel cramped when
using a text editor to write an RFC, which is the very reason that I
asked people from Microsoft to provide some advice for using WinWord.
But UNIX users also feel cramped. Much like WinWord, nroff has to be
carefully tweaked to get the page length and margins right for RFCs
Much like winword, nroff wants to produce overstrikes and add extra
lines at the top of a page which much be removed in postprocessing.
It's easy once you know the tricks and have the tools in place, but
this is true for both nroff and WinWord. The only significant
difference is that nroff users already know the tricks, while WinWord
users are just now learning them.
The RFC format is a compromise, deliberately chosen to be universally
readable, at the expense of being somewhat difficult to produce. Even
today, it seems to me that this is still the right tradeoff.