Friday, 21 November 2008

The Death of the Standalone Document

I write emails, blog pages, Wiki pages. I create spreadsheets, presentations and web pages. I even do some detailed formatting of photo books and I layout text in detail with graphic programs or publishing tools.

But what I find myself doing more and more seldom is writing standalone documents.

I know the world is full of .docs, and I was just reminded of that, when talking to Marino Marcich, the head of the ODF Alliance, in Ankara, Turkey. I fully symphatise with the usage of an open document format, where there is true openness, true choice and true competition between software suppliers -- and not a monopoly based on format changes at the whim of individual companies.

However, my thinking is that the use of classical "Word processing" is a shrinking use case. I may be an exception, but:

  1. I prefer getting emails where the message is in the email body, not in an attachment.

    • I can read the message quicker.

    • I can search quicker within the message, or within the message folder.

    • I have less data to archive.

  2. I prefer finding and reading data over the web, rather than having to myself manage a directory tree containing documents.

    • I like sharing texts where I am in charge of their persistence, through pointing to it in the form of an URL.

    • If I want to enable my readers to read my texts offline, I just cut-and-paste a pure-text version as the email body.

  3. In the rare case that I want to control format and positioning of texts (for binders or other texts designed for usage on dead trees only), I use a drawing program, such as Omni Graffle.

This means that although I use Open Office, I do so for .odp files (presentations) and .ods files (spreadsheets), but hardly ever .odt files (texts).

True, it's much more annoying to get a .doc file than an .odt file, but getting any text attachment at all is usually quite a bit of overkill and an annoyance, at least for me.

I addressed this thinking with Aslam Raffee, the chairperson of the OSS Workgroup in the South African Government IT Officers Council a few weeks ago. And judging from his reaction, the standalone document isn't quite dead yet. But if it were for myself, and many of my MySQLer colleagues, the standalone document would soon face extinction.

1 comment:

  1. Sheeri, those peeves of yours are mine as well. Email (an offline thing) requiring you to go online to get the actual information, that is very low usability.

    And yes, a PDF manual may be useful.