A long time ago on a computer far, far away I used to use a Word processor called KindWords. If there was a way of opening the files for that word processor nowadays I might get a giggle from the nostalgia value but not a lot else.
In 50 years time however I do want it to be possible to open documents containing minutes of government meetings or the first draft of the (then historic) eighteenth Harry Potter book. This is part of the reason why file formats that only one company can change (or can even completely understand) are bad. What if they disappear?
The other part of the reason why open standards are so good is that you should be free to choose a word processor because it is the best word processor, not because it is the only one that can open the files with its secret sauce.
Well rejoice, there is an open standard, the Open Document Format, and there are Office Suites that use it, for example the free OpenOffice 2.0 which runs on Windows, Linux and (in an altered form) the Mac. Shouldn’t you use it or another program that supports the standard? If such a standard becomes established it’ll not only drive competition in office suites it will also allow anyone to help create a whole array of little utilities and add-ons
In other news, if you are obsessively reading info on the debate about open standards (and specifically whether public organisations like the government of Massachusetts or the European Commission should mandate that their employees use then) then a key source of info is the Standards Blog. What I find most intriguing is that you never see the Standards Blog’s Andy Updegrove and the Guardian’s/Radio 4’s Simon Hoggart in a room together.
Simon Hoggart or Andy Updegrove, who can tell?