Solutions to Microsoft Specific Problems

This DVD contains solutions produced by the Free Software community that substantially, though not completely, address the problems caused by closed or poorly doccumented Microsoft file formats. This section takes you step by step through opening representative files using some of these tools.

As a reminder from the emacs tutorial, which is assumed to have been done first,

will immediately cancel anything that is demanding a response in the minibuffer, and
C-x 1
Will revert your screen back to one screen if the screen has been split.

Microsoft Word Files

  1. Open a shell in emacs:
    M-x shell
  2. If you did not do so earlier in the tutorial, make a directory where you have write access.:
    mkdir no-ms
    cd no-ms
  3. Get the sample file:
  4. Open the test file:
    C-x C-f h:/no-ms/noattachments.doc
    (note 1: on Windows, use M-x no-word-find-file to open)
    (note 2: emacs accepts correctly slanted slashes)
    You can use the menus, but the keybindings are far more efficient, especially for a command as common as open file. Use tab completion, or for unknown files, use dired by pressing return, with a directory name instead of a file name.

Microsoft Access Files

  1. Switch to your shell or follow the first two steps in the previous section if you have not yet launched a shell.
  2. get the files (or use your own- let me know if you find a file that fails):
  3. visit the file with emacs:
    C-x C-f h:/no-ms/jersey.mdb
    This will show you the tables contained in this sample Microsoft Access database file.
  4. The underlying command from mdbtools takes three arguments. To see this, switch to your dos shell and issue the command with no arguments.
    C-x b
    at the prompt enter
    switch back to your database buffer by issuing
    C-x b
  5. Position you cursor at the start of the line containing the name of the table you would like to open.
  6. 'Kill' the name:
  7. Issue the command for opening a table in the data base:
    M-x no-mdb-find-table
    Use tab completion after no-mdb (press tab twice).
    It is a convention for modes in emacs to prepend the mode name to the start of all commands from that mode. Pressing tab twice in this way is a good way to recall the names of commands, or to see available commands.
  8. Press return to issue the command.
    1. You will be prompted for the first input, the database in which the table is to be found. The default will be correct, so press return.
    2. Next you are prompted for the table to view. 'Yank' the name you 'Killed' earlier:
      If the contents pasted from the kill ring are not what the name, then press
      until you get to the file name.
    3. You are then prompted to enter an option. The default is no option, which produces an ordinary CSV file, so press return.
  9. You are now viewing some portion of the first line or two of your table.
  10. If the file looks right, save it with a .csv extension and continue from there.
  11. Switch to your shell to and press mdb- and then tab twice to see the other mdbtools command that have been ported to Windows for this DVD, and see the mbdtools website,, for documentation.