Manuals, software, programs (Re: Savannah rejects a project because it uses GPL)

Alfred M. Szmidt ams at
Sun Feb 12 01:16:00 UTC 2006

   To be clear, are you saying that source code is *not* a program?


   You have defined software as synonymous with programs, as I
   understand it. If source code is not a program, is it not software?

   If the preferred form for modification of a manual is not
   human-readable, and is not a program, what is it? Software? A
   manual?  Something else -- if so, what?

Good questions.  I would say `data'.  As for the defintiion of
software, and program, you put me into a corner there.  I, as most
people, use the terms to mean many things, none of which are specific.

I think that anything that can be converted into a program is software
(i.e. something that is a digital `circuit' or can be converted into
such a form, but not made in hardware).

   >    Are these [PostScript and LaTeX] programs not software?
   > Software and programs tend to be the same thing.

   I'll take that as an answer of "all PostScript and LaTeX programs are
   software"; if you don't believe that's true, I'd still like to know
   your answer to that question.

Yes, that would be the answer.

   How does this affect your definition of software? Is that
   definition inclusive of something other than programs -- if so,
   what does it include?

I don't think it affects it at all.

   >    Are these programs not FAQ documents or manuals?
   > Since a computer cannot read them, they are not programs.

   I presume you mean to distinguish the human-readable form from the
   preferred form for modification (the source code) for the manual. Why
   is one form "the manual" and the other not?

The human readable form can infact be the preferred form for
modifications (text files anyone?)  The manual would be what the user
reads and sees.  In the same way that the program is what the user
interacts with.  Compare this to the source code (either for the
manual, or the program) which a computer cannot grok without some kind
of transformation.

   Is this distinction of forms of a work significant for the freedoms
   that should accrue to each form of the work?

I think so.

   >    Some manuals are programs. Some are not. Neither case is
   >    uncommon or strange.
   > No manual is a program.  Can you show me a single one that I can
   > actually run by a computer?  Or even a FAQ?

   I define a program as being inclusive of the source code and the
   executable form. Sometimes they are the same form.

   I define a document as being inclusive of the source code and
   human-readable form. Sometimes they are the same form.

This doesn't answer the question, can a FAQ be a program?

   I ask all these questions of category definitions, because it is on
   the categorical labelling of different types of work, and different
   forms of work, that you base your arguments for what freedoms
   should apply to different things. Thus, understanding the
   definitions is crucial to understanding your arguments.

Well put.

Cheers, and happy hacking!

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