• United States


Jan 19, 20062 mins
Data Center

If you’ve been in business just two or three years, you probably haven’t given a thought to the file formats of your documents. Most people don’t think about this and use the default document formats in their applications. For Microsoft Office, the market leader by far, this means DOC files for Word documents, XLS files for Excel spreadsheets, and so on down the line.

But if you’ve been in business 20 years, you probably used Wordstar, WordPerfect, MultiPlan, and maybe even Lotus 1-2-3 applications over the years. Can you open those documents today? Probably not, meaning good information from your past can no longer help you today. You can’t even search all those old file types with any of the desktop search tools, so you can’t find the information even by accident.

As Microsoft gears up to force us all to upgrade our Office application suites, file formats take center stage as hot topics (see the lead story to the right). Remember the Massachusetts government official who demanded the state move to a standards-based Open Document Format system? He didn’t handle the resulting argument well (he retired) but he made a great point.

If you plan to be around for the long haul, start creating your documents in formats that aren’t subject to the whims of one company (Microsoft). Try out RTF (Rich Text Format) as your word processing document format of choice. Every word processor, from a free one that appears in your morning cereal box to the highest-end pre-press page layout application, can read RTF. Even the free WordPad processor that comes with Windows reads RTF. You will be able to read RTF for years and years and years.

And those of you who like to fill your documents with 27 fonts can still do so with RTF. See, everybody wins that way.

Well, not the viruses that look to exploit Microsoft Word macros. RTF documents are immune to macro viruses, another advantage.