It feels wrong somehow

I just paid for a copy of Word. I have never done that before in my life! I don't think I have paid for any Microsoft office product (i.e. I have never had to as not using one). It was actually a copy for Word for my Mac at around £100.

Why would I do this?

Well, short answer, BT.

They provide bills in RTF (Rich Text Format) only. No idea why not in PDF. We have tried to get them to see sense. They don't have to stop providing in RTF for those that want but just add that extra link on the portal for PDF, pretty please.

If you google you will find loads and loads and loads of ways to open RTF or convert RTF to PDF or PS, or LaTeX or text or whatever. Apparently TextEditor on Mac will open RTF, as will LibreOffice. So will unrtf on linux, but no, the magic RTFs that BT make are not handled by any of them. I even tried Wordpad on a windows VM! No joy. It seems to be XML (not ZIPPED) and says it is a Word document, but nothing can open it. Very frustrating.

So, an actual copy of Word - it was risky - if that did not open, what then? More shouting at BT? Refusing to pay until they fix it?

One time we had a VAT inspection, and VAT office threatened to disallow a lot of VAT if we could not produce the bill on paper or some readable format, which proved very hard. I think, at the time, they used an older RTF that would open, but was hundreds of pages long, so VAT inspector literally had to wait around half an hour for the document to open to see the front page with VAT details. That was very nearly very costly for us.

Their portal does not say how much the bill is (I think it used to, hence having paid the above bill) so we need to open it somehow, and usually someone in BT will load the RTF in to Word and save as PDF and email us, but I am guessing they are on holiday, and it is kind of handy to know how much we owe. Why are they so backward!

Now, my paid for copy of Word did work, though it would not export as a PDF (generates an error)! Thankfully, being a Mac, I just say "print" and select PDF and bingo, sorted.

Such a faff. It is not so much the £100, it is paying Microsoft. That just seems so wrong somehow.


  1. For years I've used Abiword for these, including Openreach ones. Tried that? That's just for printing something. I have to use Word for contract things and legal documents as LibreOffice can't cope somehow.

  2. Get CutePDF which, last time I checked, is legal for commercial use and free of charge and allows print-to-PDF even if your software does not have that feature.

  3. Sounds if it’s xml content maybe it’s a docx file with the wrong extension on it and Word is being intelligent and recognising and applying the appropriate parser regardless of the file extension. Wouldn’t be surprised if they were programmatically calling out to a copy of Word to generate the files and are oblivious the fact the extension might not match the format of it is calling a save command and feeding the full export path including file name and extension.

  4. It sounds like there is a hole in the law if suppliers can provide invoices that you cannot read, or BT just ignores it. On a side note, BT is in bed with Microsoft so quite a big conflict of interest.

  5. Rather than just sticking to what they are good at BT do all sorts of weird things. They print all automated correspondence for Liverpool City Council. Yes the council tax bill comes from BT.

  6. BT ignoring perfectly good and usable standards? Why I never....

  7. Is Office Online free with a Microsoft Account?

  8. That's strange, I just downloaded a BT retail landline bill from their website..... It came as a PDF.

    1. So they can do it! This is not BT Retail services I am talking about :-)

  9. Have you tried Apple's Pages.app (in the Mac App Store)? I believe that is free, and it's able to open .docx.

  10. Why not try it out with the 30 day trial of Word or Office and if it worked and you still needed it, use the Office 365 Personal or Home subscription?


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