by Dennis R. Arter, ‘The Audit Guy’
Reprinted from Usability Interface, Vol 5, No. 4, April 1999
First published in Chesapeake Bayline, September 1998, newsletter of the Metro Baltimore chapter.
The most popular kind of files being used in the professional and technical fields is Microsoft Word. Often, these are attached to email messages in order to rapidly share information. A major problem occurs, however, when the recipient cannot read, or even open, your file. What’s a person to do?
Often, your friends cannot read your files because they do not have the same software as you. They may not even have the same computer type as you. Or, they may have a different version of the software. All three problems have solutions. Those solutions take the form of software programs waiting for you do download, free of charge, from the Microsoft web site at www.microsoft.com.
Select search at the top, and type-in, ‘Where can I find Office views?’ (without the quotes) and you will get a list of various Microsoft programs.
Macintosh users can download converters to turn Word files from a Windows platform into something they can read on their Mac Word 5.1 or Mac Word 6.0 programs. Sure, all of the fancy stuff probably will not translate but at least the material is readable. Unfortunately, these programs will not work unless you first have Mac Word on your machine.
Windows users who do not have Word can read and print Word documents using a viewer program. These are small (well, relatively small compared to the huge Office programs!) packages. They are designed to load, read and print all Word files. After a while, you may even find yourself using these programs instead of the real thing, since they load and work so rapidly. There’s a 32-bit version of Word Viewer for Windows 95 machines and a 16-bit version of the Viewer for Windows 3.1 machines.
One of the frustrating problems people experience is not being able to read a Word file, although they have Word (or Office) loaded on their computer. This is due to an earlier programming error by the team that developed Office 97. Windows machines use the last three characters of the file name to identify the program to be used on that file. This is different from the Macintosh, which uses a part of the file invisible to mere mortals to tell it which program to use.
The three-letter code for Microsoft Word is .doc and it is automatically added to a file when you save it to your hard drive. Unfortunately, when they wrote Office 97, the folks at Microsoft used the same three-letter .doc code that they used for Office 95. Yet, Office 97 files contain a lot more things in them. So the poor dumb computer running Office 95 (which accounts for about 80 percent of all users out there right now), sees an Office 97 file, with it’s .doc ending, and thinks that it can actually read the file. Wrong!
If you use Office 95 and don’t care to spend several hundred dollars to upgrade, go to the Microsoft site mentioned earlier and download two files:
- Word 97 Viewer
- Word 97 Converter
Your problems will vanish. On the few occasions where your Word 95 program cannot handle it, the Viewer can.
If you use Office 97, you need to modify your program to allow you to save files in Office 95 format. The original release of the software did not allow you do to this. Download the Word 97 converter and install it. (If you cannot find it on the Microsoft site, try the search phrase, ‘Where can I find Word converters?’). Whenever you want to send a file to someone else, do a save as on the file. Choose Word 6 format, as this is the universally accepted format, which causes the fewest problems.
If your friends complain that your files are unreadable, it’s probably because you forgot to send them the Word 6 version (and they don’t have the converters loaded on their end). Download the cute little Viewer program too. You never know when it might become useful.