Saturday, December 04, 2004

What to do when you get Microsoft Word attachments

John Naughton posts about how to deal politely with people who will persist in sending attachments in Microsoft Word format. (Like my dear colleagues and friends at Diocesan Church House, and in fact just about everyone who ever sends me attachments.) He suggests sending them a reply phrased something like this (slightly edited for the purposes of ecto.) I'd love to do this but haven't yet had the brass cheek.
Thanks for writing. However the attachment to your message is in Microsoft Word format, a secret proprietary format that I avoid whenever possible. If you send me plain text, rtf, HTML, or PDF, then I will read it. Distributing documents in Word (or Excel) format could be bad for your correspondents because they can carry viruses. Sending Word attachments could be bad for you, because a Word document normally includes hidden information about the author, enabling those in the know to pry into his or her activities. For example, text that you think you deleted may still be embarrassingly present. But above all, sending people Word documents puts pressure on them to use Microsoft software and helps to deny them any other choice. In effect, you become a buttress of the Microsoft monopoly and reduce the incentive for people to explore alternatives. Can I respectfully ask that you reconsider the use of Word format for communication with other people?

posted by Tony at 12/4/2004 01:06:50 PM


Rhys said...

mmm I see your point but I've just downladed Office 2003 in welsh and blogged my thanks

But I publicly promise now not to send you or John Naughton any attachments, welsh or otherwise!

12/4/2004 01:25:21 PM  
Claire said...

Really????? I had no idea. How come? How do deleted bits reappear? I'm always sending my supervisors things in word.

12/4/2004 02:42:59 PM  
Stephen said...

Hello, first comment here!

I just wanted to point out that Word documents can often be opened in TextEdit.
It used to be that doing this resulted in weird characters and the inclusion of what the author had typed, and erased in the document.
Now the only side-effect is the loss of complex formatting. Whilst it will preserve most aspects of a font, it cannot handle things like footnotes which are simply dumped in a tidy unexplained pile at the bottom of the document.

But otherwise I completely agree with the disruption of the concept of word as the norm.

12/5/2004 08:44:16 AM  

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