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ziggy (25)

ziggy
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Journal of ziggy (25)

Saturday September 07, 2002
11:13 AM

Just say NO! to .DOC

[ #7595 ]
Scott Johnson of FuzzyBlog fame weighs in on sending .DOC files around:

I had an awful experience yesterday. I posted a request for somebody out there to send me a screen capture of my opml stuff running under IE 6 since IE 5.5 doesn't work with XSLT (at least for me, no matter what Microsoft says). Wouldn't you know that about 5 minutes later an IM popped up from a reader who said "Here ya go!". Wow! You know that bloggers are friendly but this still surprises you. [...]

Anyway, Dewayne sent me the screen cap as a word document. And for the first time since I've been getting email w/ attachments I was scared.

We all know the reasons to avoid Word. It's a proprietary format (and the documentation about it is wrong, it changes with every release, it saves every keystroke you type, it's binary, yadda yadda yadda). It's an executable format on a certain dominant platform (and great for transmitting macro viruses). And if you just want to transmit formatted text with images, there are other alternatives, like RTF.

Scott even demonstrates how to tell Word to save as RTF by default.

RTF doesn't solve the problem completely - there are six versions (v1.0 through v1.5, the most current) of RTF, all confusingly named "RTF". But at least RTF documents are significantly more interchangeable than DOC files.

RTF is also designed to degrade gracefully. That is, if you throw a RTF 1.5 document (with all sorts of new formatting instructions) at a reader that only understands RTF 1.0, the reader should be able to show the content of the document, even if it cannot show the formatting. For a perfect demonstration, take a complex RTF document from a recent copy of Word (something that contains tables, multiple fonts, tabs superscripts, subscripts, justification, etc.). On OS X, TextEdit will show the content, but lose lots of formatting. AppleWorks will show much more of the formatting, but not get it quite right, and will disagree with Word on how to render the document.

It's a very hard problem, and won't be solved as long as Microsoft is dictating file formats.

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  • I tend to send PDFs to people, instead. It's rare that I need someone to edit a document I'm working on...

    David

    • I do the same thing.

      If they want to edit something, I can send them the sources (either XML or LaTeX) that originated the docs. Or they can buy a PDF writer (I rarely protect PDF documents).

      PDF has solved the layout problem and the tools problem, with a very small size. I was going to send PostScripts, but them I'd have to explain how to install GhostScript on machines that didn't have it, then how to start it, and I still had to worry with the size of the file.

      PDF. That's it.
      --
      -- Godoy.
  • I sometimes receive the same kind of document you do, but no in Word: in PowerPoint.

    The thing is: people have the stuff in JPEG or something else. Then, they have to add that to the PowerPoint document. Why don't they send the JPEG file??? Much smaller and standard...

    --
    -- Godoy.