[Melbourne-pm] real world business issues: file formats

Toby Corkindale toby.corkindale at strategicdata.com.au
Tue Dec 28 18:33:15 PST 2010

Have you considered that it might just be cheaper to purchase an updated 
version of MS Word?

I mean, you're talking about doing a lot of manual conversions, and 
going from .docs -> .odf -> .pdf, and you're sufficiently unsure of this 
that you're looking to contract a programmer to automatically verify the 

Given the sort of money that'll cost, seriously, maybe it's just cheaper 
to give into Microsoft and buy a later copy of Office for your partner? 
It'll probably come in handy elsewhere too.

Or alternatively - can you get your upstream supplier to provide PDF 
files instead?


On 28/12/10 21:15, john thornton wrote:
> Hash: SHA1
>             I want to raise some nitty gritty issues of day to day
> business life. This is practical stuff. It's not some academic theory.
>            I have some massive issues with file formats. OK. Backing up a
> minute, what business am I in? Well, to be insured there is client
> paperwork that must be followed. The insurance company [Rapid Solutions]
> issues the paperwork online and you download it for your business. Only
> people who are insured have access to the paperwork for download. It
> only comes in a Windows format. [more about that later]
>            Now, the crux of the problem is that every year Rapid changes
> their insurance template. They do this to stop shysters using the
> template to write illegal reports. So, every year I have to spend days
> of valuable time tweaking the report's format because off the bat it is
> never quite what I want. In all this I have to not modify the format too
> much; it's broad intent is to stop a lawyer saying "aha, you only have a
> rough copy/draft of the report, your honour that is not admissible in
> court". Then there are invoices, other documents for clients and so on
> that have to be changed to reflect the new format as well. Since when
> this occurs every year Rapid Solutions changes the insurance numbers.
>            OK. About a week ago the Rapid emailed us that they had
> changed their template again. There are 4 separate documents that they
> change. Each one has a different Australian Standard number. Each one
> uses a different file format!! Because they have been done by different
> people with different software. Yeah I know. This is beginning to sound
> more like 1980 than 2010. So I opened up the one with a .docx format. I
> have msoft word 2010 which opened it. But my business partner who needs
> it still uses msoft word 2003. Thus the .docx opened as total
> gobbledegook: a sea of blank squares. So, I put openoffice on his
> computer and the .docx file opened up OK, BUT, and it's a big BUT, drop
> down menus were no longer there. I mean things like "the house is
> good/bad/stinky/don't know/ as drop down choices to be put in with a
> mouse click. He can't use my computer; he has to write these reports on
> his own. But one positive to the Openoffice .odf format is that he can
> add in anything he wants; msoft word was limited in that way.
>         So, what he's going to do is to go with Openoffice. He's going to
> add in each drop down box as an either/or choice to be crossed out; each
> box had 6 choices but most are not relevant to what he does. Openoffice
> also messes up some formatting when saved as a .odf, having been opened
> up in openoffice as a .docx, so he'll fix that. All this is a heck of a
> lot of slogwork, probably a day's worth. At least. Then there are other
> documents to modify as well. These reports are emailed and posted snail
> mail. [only the snail mail is insured officially but the email gives a
> heads up to the client who often needs to know stuff that night at a
> 12:00 midnight deadline.] One issue with email is that the person will
> be opening it up in msoft word. So what we've decided is to convert the
> .odf files to a pdf. This isn't without its issues. Such conversions are
> not always 100% accurate. Thus I would really, really like to find some
> windows file comparison software.
>        .odf = pdf ???? [at least I should know if any text is missing] I
> have tried winmerge. I hate it. To me it would only be useful to the
> engineer from the film "First Contact". I went to wikipedia. It seems
> that most file comparison software is designed for coders to compare
> source file to source file. That's not what I need. I need to go "click"
> and know that my .odf has converted as I want it to for the pdf.
>        That almost sounds like a job for some perl person ? :) Write a
> perl program for file comparison!
>        In any case a lot of reformatting slogwork is ahead with the
> template. There's a lot of dark ages computing about. About 2 weeks ago
> I read on zdnet that the public service in Canberra is going to upgrade
> their computers...to Vista Service Pack 1. [yeah, that's not a joke.]
> That's not even adequate for Microsoft exchange server [needs Vista
> service pack 2 at least.] Yes, I know about Linux. I agree that Linux is
> a lot better than Windows. But I can't teach someone who was born in the
> 1940's Linux. Getting him to use Windows was in itself a feat of
> Hercules. He can't email. I have to send his emails.
>       So if someone could write me a file comparison program in perl? :)
> Or just tell me a good one to get.
>       Thank you
>       Andrew
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