E-Mailing Word Documents: an Opinion
Lately, I have noticed a tendency for people to send me e-mail in the
form of attachments containing Microsoft Word documents.
There are several good reasons not to use Microsoft Word as a document
- It is not universal. There are people (like me) who do not use
Word and don't want to. Even people who do use Word may be using
an older version than the one you send, which can cause problems.
Other word processors can deal with Word documents, but only up to
a point. For instance, using WordPerfect 8.0, I was unable to view
a Word 97 document containing clip-art.
- It is bloated. For example, I recently received a 3000-word term
paper in Word 97 format. The file totaled 136 kB, whereas the
actual text content was only 21 kB. One reason Word files are so
large is that they may contain hidden undo information and even
whole earlier versions of the document. This means that the
recipient, if so inclined, could see material that you thought you
had deleted. This might include material that you would not want
the recipient to see.
- Word documents are susceptible to macro viruses like the notorious
Melissa virus. These have the property that you have only to open
the attachment to infect your machine. Why use a format that can
be infected by a virus when there are other equally good formats
that can not?
- Most importantly, this practice supports Microsoft in its attempt
to achieve a monopoly on personal computer software. In the long
run, monopolies are always bad for the consumer. The convenience
now will cost us later -- resist!
In sum, you should only exchange Word documents with people who are
engaged in a task of editing a document together with you. In this
context it makes sense. But if the document is a finished product
that is to be simply printed and/or read, why not use a format that is
better suited, less resource-consuming, and more universally acceptable?
A suggestion: finished documents should be circulated in HTML, RTF,
PostScript or PDF form if there is a need for special formatting and
fonts, and in plain text form otherwise.
Microsoft Word is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation.
PostScript is a trademark of Adobe Systems. Other names used in this
document might be trademarked too, I don't know.
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