Document Compatability in 10-20 years

  • #1
What is the outlook for backwards compatability 10-20 years into the future? Right now I have a huge amount of articles, presentations, assignments, and excel spreadsheets stored on my computer. The information is frequently backed up to a portable hard drive. The primary file extensions are .xls, .doc, .pdf, .ppt, .bmp, .txt, .jpg, and .gif.

I prefer the electronic format over paper since it is very easy to print, search, send, organize, modify, and transport. However, I am worried that I will not be able to access the files 5,10, or 20 years down the road (from different storage media, of course). Does anybody think this will be a problem?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Bayou Tiger said:
What is the outlook for backwards compatability 10-20 years into the future? Right now I have a huge amount of articles, presentations, assignments, and excel spreadsheets stored on my computer. The information is frequently backed up to a portable hard drive. The primary file extensions are .xls, .doc, .pdf, .ppt, .bmp, .txt, .jpg, and .gif.
I prefer the electronic format over paper since it is very easy to print, search, send, organize, modify, and transport. However, I am worried that I will not be able to access the files 5,10, or 20 years down the road (from different storage media, of course). Does anybody think this will be a problem?
They're in MS formats?

Then it will be a problem. You can count on it.

This is the very reason MA is moving from MS office formats to OpenDocument and PDF only.
 
  • #3
This is the very reason MA is moving from MS office formats to OpenDocument and PDF only.
What are MA and OpenDocument? It sounds like you feel that .pdf will survive. By the way, I have a lot of VBA functions and subroutines built into Excel (simplifies the GUI). What is the best route for those files, although I will keep working Excel copies in the meantime?

Hopefully when "judgement day" arrives, there will be enough of a market for a software tool that makes these conversions automatically.

:yuck:
 
  • #4
-Job-
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I don't think you should worry very much, even if some formats change or get dropped in time there'll always be some tools around to easily allow you to convert them to more popular formats.
 
  • #5
dduardo
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MA = Massachusetts

Here is an article discussing the move:

http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1863060,00.asp

The Opendocument format has been agreed upon by many companies including: Adobe, IBM, Sun, Intel, Novell, etc.

Anyone can use it for free, there are no patents attached to the standard and everything about the is documented. Even Microsoft could implement OpenDocument in Office.

Btw Job, I'm sure Microsoft would be thrilled if you upgraded, even though Office 97 was good enough.
 
  • #6
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I'm sure they would, but obviously i don't have to, there's plenty of other options. The only reason i own MS Software at all is because i can get it for free from the MSDNA, because i wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. I think if you're a business you should consider MS, otherwise there's no reason to spend any money on tools that you can otherwise get for free. The tools i was referring to i actually imagined to be third-party tools, not MS tools.
 
  • #7
dduardo
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-Job- said:
The tools i was referring to i actually imagined to be third-party tools, not MS tools.
Yeah, too bad MS keeps the internals of their document a secret which forces people to spend time trying to reverse engineer the format.
 
  • #8
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Bayou Tiger said:
What are MA and OpenDocument? It sounds like you feel that .pdf will survive. By the way, I have a lot of VBA functions and subroutines built into Excel (simplifies the GUI). What is the best route for those files, although I will keep working Excel copies in the meantime?
Hopefully when "judgement day" arrives, there will be enough of a market for a software tool that makes these conversions automatically.
:yuck:

I don't know how long pdf will remain in use. But it is an open format, and anyone can make a reader for it. As such, documents are not locked in by it. MS formats are closed. If you have a document in Word 97 format, you WILL lose access to it eventually, because its a closed format, and only MS is legally allowed to make software that can read it (doesn't stop others from reverse engineering it though).

As dduardo points out, MS goes out of their way to make their formats innaccessible to their competitors. Although, this appears to be changing as governments like MA are beginning to get sick of it.
 
  • #10
dduardo
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What does open up mean for Microsoft? We have to wait and see.
 
  • #11
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robphy said:
In recent news,
"Microsoft to Open up Office Formats" (posted 11/21/05)
http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/21/2052252&tid=109&tid=185&tid=8

If you actually read the license on their webpage, its meaningless. Nothing but a PR move. The license to sell and dsitribute products using the MS XML formats is nontransferable. That single line in the license is basically a big flying finger to GPL projects. Nothing has changed.
 
  • #12
Moonbear
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I don't know...I wouldn't bank on being able to read the documents in 10 or so years if you aren't actively re-saving them in newer versions of the software. I have lots of 3.5" floppy disks with documents and spreadsheets and slides from old versions of WordPerfect, Lotus 123, and Harvard Graphics, respectively. Nothing currently available opens any of them anymore, even on the computers I have in the closet that still have floppy drives :tongue2:. Let's see...those would have been created over a range of about 7 to 10 years ago.

Then again, sometimes hardcopies aren't any better. Ink fades, paper yellows, pages fall out of binders...
 
  • #14
russ_watters
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That surprises me, Moonbear - I'd at least have expected 123 spreadsheets to be readable by Excel or a text editor. My dad has old company files on 123 and Harvard Graphics too, though he hasn't tried to view any in about 10 years...

I have an old floppy drive in a closet somewhere for the purpose of backing up those files onto newer media and I haven't done it yet - who knows if they are still even readable...
 
  • #15
Moonbear
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russ_watters said:
That surprises me, Moonbear - I'd at least have expected 123 spreadsheets to be readable by Excel or a text editor. My dad has old company files on 123 and Harvard Graphics too, though he hasn't tried to view any in about 10 years...
I don't know if I ever tried opening them in a text editor. I have no need for them anymore other than nostalgia (just stuff from my dissertation project; everything of value is already published).
I have an old floppy drive in a closet somewhere for the purpose of backing up those files onto newer media and I haven't done it yet - who knows if they are still even readable...
Yeah, that's what happens, you intend to transfer old files while you still can, but then you get busy and it doesn't happen, and before you know it, you've got a stack of floppies in the closet that are worthless as anything other than coasters (and the AOL CDs make prettier coasters :rofl:).
 

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