I shall NEVER keep my information in a proprietary binary format (such as Word, WordPerfect, Excel etc). All my personal files are kept in plain text format. So please do not ask for my resume in the Word format - such requests will be silently ignored.
On the other hand, if others (such as a client or an employer) want, I am willing to access their data in the format they want, if they provide me with the appropriate tools.
People create their files for future retrieval and reuse. E.g., today you might write a paper which you will print tomorrow, send via e-mail to a friend the next day and incorporate his remarks the next week, then you might want to retrieve your original text without his changes. If your data is saved in a proprietary binary format, these simple tasks are complicated beyond your wildest imagination.
Finally, who do you think will be able to read your Word97 files in 10 years? The computer architecture on which your current Word binary runs will be obsolete, your today's computer will break down, and you will never be able to recover the information stored in your files.
Proprietary data formats DESTROY your information.
Additionally, binary formats stifle competition because a newcomer has to parse all those existing formats before he can hope to gain a market share. This is why we have so many binary formats: Microsoft et al change them all the time to preserve the barrier to entry.
Although you cannot fix your car, and probably do not have a very clear idea how it works, it is still important to you that you can open the hood and look at the engine and maybe, with some help from a professional, find out what is wrong. The fact that the hood can be open at any time is the best possible guarantee against fraud: you don't even think that someone might put there something you don't want. If your car dealer or manufacturer would have put there something bad - like illegal drug disposer or a radio transmitter so that someone will be able to watch your location - you can be confident that some mechanic or just a techno-geek will notice that (this is purely imaginary, of course, but it is so because your hood is not sealed by the manufacturer). This is why the world needs reverse engineers.
I use plain text-based formats for all my needs.
The long-term universal solution is XML - the Extensible Markup Language. It allows describing document types in a universal way, so that one does not have to write a new parser every time Microsoft changes Word format. To describe a document type in XML, one has to specify 2 things:
tableetc. E.g., DocBook is one such document type. Another example is XHTML, which is a reformulation of HTML 4 in XML 1.0. Actually, this very document is a valid XHTML document!
Both DTD and Stylesheets are provided by the document type designer,
i.e., your vendor, and made publicly available. Your document is kept
in plain text format (with
XML markup), so you can view and
edit it with any tool you like. This way the software vendors will be
making money on the quality of their software, not the obscurity of
their data formats.
The fact that the logical structure is kept separate from the physical presentation is one of the most attractive features of this model.
|Sam Steingold<email@example.com>||created: 2000-02-07|