An end to Microsoft Word attachments

Please Don’t Send Me Microsoft Word Documents is the title of this web page from Tristan Miller, and it logically and thoroughly makes a strong case for calling a halt to the notion that Word is a universal file format. Read it, and bookmark the link so you can send it to all the people you work with who don’t think twice about file formats.

Word is very good for some things, particularly document authoring where comments and revision tracking are important. I use it every day on the Macbook. But Miller is spot-on that the main problem with using any word processor for basic communication is that they conflate composition with typesetting, and most of the time there’s no need for anything more than a simple text editor, which is “future-proof” and whose output can be read by nearly any machine in existence.

Then again, will people get it if you explain it? I think most casual computer users have a very poor understanding of the whole concept of a file format, and that’s a big part of the problem. Back when I was still running Linux full-time, a colleague of mine sent around a document to all faculty in Microsoft Publisher format. When I emailed the person and gently explained that not everybody on campus used Windows and so documents meant for all faculty should be in a generic file format, they re-sent the document… as a Word file.


Filed under Geekhood, Linux, Technology

8 responses to “An end to Microsoft Word attachments

  1. I hate attachments in general. This goes especially for when the entire content of the attachment is text — text that could have been copy/pasted into the message itself.

    I use pine for my email, so when someone sends me an attachment I need to save it to my account and ftp it from the server. (On the bright side, I will NEVER get a virus over email with my set-up!)

    And I don’t have MS Office on the MacBook yet. So if someone sends me a MS Word attachment, I’d need to go to my office to read it. Bleh.

  2. I’m with you on this, but I don’t see any of my colleagues getting it either (except for the IT guy).

  3. I feel much the same about pdf files. I despise them. I despise getting them as attachments. I hate them so much I think they should be against the law.

    Only half kidding there.

  4. RWP, what’s your beef with PDF files?

  5. They’re ridiculously large, they’re unnecessary, and they require another application, which loads slowly and tries to get you to update. They’re even worse than real player.

  6. liz

    I am part of one group that needs to communicate with large files. Sigh. It’s just the way it is. Also, the technological savvy varies from microscopic (one person barely knows how to open Microsoft Word) to extreme (multi-patent holder). We’ve standardized on MS Word as the least challenging.

    On the whole, I don’t open attachments from people I don’t know, and I don’t open attachments I don’t expect. Instead I email the person back, asking if they had a reason to send me an attachment. This has saved my bacon a couple of times.

    I don’t much care for PDF files either, but if I’m going to send a document that MUST NOT BE ALTERED (say, the organization’s bylaws)…danged straight I am going to send a pdf.

    I learned that the hard way, by sending bylaws of another (volunteer) organization to that organization’s board. Bylaws, once passed, constitute a binding legal document. One board member made changes, and then tried to pass of the changes as binding.

    Much headache and timewasting ensued before the situation was straightend out.

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