This 25th of March, 2009 is Document Freedom Day. Although it’s not as important as starvation in parts of the world, the economic crisis or the continuous deterioration of our privacy and civil rights (in UK and elsewhere), it’s good to take a break and think about our use of electronic documents in our everyday live. Let me just give you an example …
A few days ago, I was trying to retrieve data from an experiment. As a well-formatted student, I stored my data in a then state-of-the-art, proprietary statistical software my dear statistical professor taught me to use. As long as I had this software, it was fine. Now that my university stopped to pay the license, that I didn’t installed this software on my new computer, I am stuck with a serie of 1, 0 and other delirious characters in that file. Does that mean I lost all my data? Yes.
Fortunately, I thought to save a backup of my data in a simple text file with CSV format. This saved my day because although I don’t have more information in this file, I don’t have less information than in the proprietary format either. And this simple CSV format allows me to enjoy processing my data with any spreadsheet software I want along with some more serious statistical packages like R.
If you want to know more about Open Documents (and more broadly about Open Standards), you can start by reading what are Open Standards. Wikipedia has a more technical article about them.
Photo credit: Slide0001 by Paul Jacobson on Flickr (licence by-nc-sa)