Microsoft Blocks Older File Formats

A good way to make Microsoft Office software not interact with other software, thus forcing users to either shun the alternatives or to use only the alternatives would be to start blocking the use of all older file formats. Let’s hope Microsoft does not think of this nasty little trick.

“In Service Pack 3 for Office 2003, Microsoft disabled support for many older file formats. If you have old Word, Excel, 1-2-3, Quattro, or Corel Draw documents, watch out! They did this because the old formats are ‘less secure’, which actually makes some sense, but only if you got the files from some untrustworthy source. Naturally, they did this by default, and then documented a mind-bogglingly complex workaround (KB 938810) rather than providing a user interface for adjusting it, or even a set of awkward ‘Do you really want to do this?’ dialog boxes to click through. And of course because these are, after all, old file formats … many users will encounter the problem only months or years after the software change, while groping around in dusty and now-inaccessible archives.”

[source]

Ooops.

Comments

  1. #1 student_b
    January 3, 2008

    Oh, but the market doesn’t produce any monopolies and anyway, it wouldn’t be abused…

    Or so I heard.

  2. #2 llewelly
    January 3, 2008

    If the source for the code that reads your data is not open, those who control that source can hold your data for ransom.

  3. #3 Rob Knop
    January 3, 2008

    I remember years ago the Gutenberg project used to have a nice position paper on why they required everything to be in just ASCII — because it was the only format that they had any faith might still be readable in 10, 20, 40, or 80 years. Meanwhile, everybody is wondering why you don’t just use Word, or RTF…. Well, even though people never seemed to take the “I’m on Linux, I can’t fully read those formats” objection seriously, they ought to take *this* seriously.

  4. #4 John S. Wilkins
    January 3, 2008

    I can’t imagine why those who might possibly want their data to be accessible in 50 years might prefer Open Document as a format over Word’s…

  5. #5 greg laden
    January 3, 2008

    John: I know what you mean.

    I used to have a list of people like that. Can’t lay my hands on the list anymore, though, it was stored in an early Microsoft Access database. There is no modern software that will read that format anymore…

  6. #6 Dunc
    January 4, 2008

    I guess this is a desperate last ditch attempt to provide a compelling reason to upgrade… I still reckon Word has been going downhill ever since ’97.