I was going through some old files on my computer the other day. I’ve always had a bit of a hoarder in me, and I have document files that are two decades old at this point. They’re mostly useless, of course. Bad poems and short stories, the odd stab at writing a song lyric and so on. Nothing of much consequence, except to revisit from time to time and revel in feelings of both delight and embarrassment.
But as I found to my great dismay, MS Word couldn’t open them any longer. A safety issue, it said. Hm. I knew the files were untouched by anyone but me. To be fair, Word did suggest a solution, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered to jump through the requisite hoops. Luckily, both Apple’s TextEdit1 and LibreOffice managed to open them without issue.
Once the files were open, I copied and pasted into a plain text document and saved. There wasn’t much need to format the documents, and what little they needed was easily fixed with Markdown or Textile. And that was it.
Granted, I still have many files to convert, but at least the window remains open for now. I will be a bit more selective about what I keep, of course, but it’s good to be reminded that backwards compatibility only lasts so long. I don’t really blame Microsoft, of course, and they did suggest a solution. But things happen, and it’s unrealistic to expect things won’t break. (That’s like demanding endless support for a mobile app you bought years ago.) Paper documents burn and digital ones get corrupted or obsolete. You’re never totally safe.
Once I got used to writing in Markdown, I kept doing it2. It’s simple and quick, and you can easily convert a text file to a docx file to suit your needs. And now my documents should be easier to open in the future as well. Sometimes the best solutions are simpler than you thought.
1 Apple have taken some deserved knocks recently, but the I find that “it just works” remains relevant. For now. (Your milage may vary, of course.)
2 I also use Textile, which is more powerful, but less supported.