File formats are the language of a computer’s memory. Choosing the right format for the electronic information we how to illustrate cartoon characters adobe illustrator pdf to store is one important step in making good use of computers and minimising problems. This book tries to help you choose the file format best suited to its use.
Somewhat more troublesome is the exchanging of address information between email software. This article gives tips for creating files in a manner which makes them easy to preserve and later access, and for avoiding pitfalls that could make your files difficult to access later. That is an area of study in itself, and is not the subject of this article. Both future proofing of information and the media it is stored on are vital in any thorough review of your IT systems.
Will you be able to read the files you’re working on now in 5 years time? Do you know if all the old files you have now are still readable? The chance of electronic files being readable in 5 or 10 years is not something to leave up to chance. Active intervention is needed in most cases.
For an explanation of terminology read the section “Formats for storing electronic information”. Audio has containers with codecs in together they form a format. Flac container with flac audio. MP3 Can contain mp3 audio. Video also has containers with codecs in together they form a format. Or perhaps you switched from one operating system to another, from Amiga to Windows, or Windows to Macintosh. Stated simply, file formats for different software far too often leave your information scrambled in a way you cannot decipher again years later.
If this seems a bit theoretical to you then here are some stories to illustrate the issue of choosing the right format for your information. A tourist walks into a very nice restaurant in a lovely village in the French countryside and mutters in English “Are you still serving lunch? No one reacts, so he says louder, “Do you have a TABLE where I might DINE? Recognizing a few words and realizing that the tourist must only speak English or isn’t interested in trying his French, one of the employees goes off to find someone who might be able to help this ignorant tourist. After a long delay, someone comes, interprets his request and finds him a seat in the restaurant. The tourist is handed a menu.
The helpful interpreter is called back and the tourist has the whole menu explained to him and is finally ready to order a meal. By now our hapless tourist is getting hungry and frustrated and, in just the way everyone gets when they are frustrated and hungry forgets their manners and blurts, “By the way, I am going to order in English so I can be sure of what I am getting – and for the privilege of taking my order, I demand that you pay the Queen of England a small sum for the use of this language which you should really just learn to use like everyone else! After this last sentence is finally translated back to the previously friendly proprietors, the kitchen is closed and the tourist is sent packing. This is the situation if your favourite software company goes bust or stops supporting the software you bought. The files which once were so convenient can become useless with time. After Taruna has been in the job for some years Gallus finds he is actually too slow and keeps losing important documents. Taruna is turned out into the street and goes back to his family in disgrace.
The following day the official employed a highly regarded new assistant and sent him into the archive. A few minutes later the assistant came out in tears explaining that he only knows a few words of Sanskrit, can’t find any references to the dialect used and could never hope to make sense of these documents. Frantically they search for Taruna. When they find him they ask him to come back to work, but he sees their problem. So he says with a smile “I will happily come back to work, you just need to double my pay and holidays!
He had lost control of his own information! 2003, Adrian Brown summarises how to proceed. An electronic record is not fully fit-for-purpose unless it is sustainable throughout its required life cycle. It is therefore highly desirable to identify the minimum set of formats which meet both the active business needs and the sustainability criteria below, and restrict data creation to these formats. Other formats, such as HTML, XML, RTF, and others are also welcome, but plain text is the “lowest common denominator. We stress the inclusion of plain text because of its longevity: Project Gutenberg includes numerous text files that are 20-30 years old. In that time, dozens of widely used file formats have come and gone.
Text is accessible on all computers, and is also insurance against future obsolescence. Does that mean we cannot use word processors, if we want long term access to the information in our documents? Project Gutenberg does, then ASCII text is the way to go. This might be something to consider for financial records and other valuable information. If, as many people do, you have non-text information, like images and sounds, then this is the article to read. Let’s now take a real world scenario.