Document file format

From ArticleWorld

A document file format is a binary file format used to store documents on electronic storage media. There are many document file formats in existence, with Microsoft's .doc being arguably a de-facto standard. Another standard is Adobe's PDF, which is mostly used when a user is expected to be able to read, but not modify, a document. Other widely used document file formats include HTML for web pages or TeX in the academic world.

The compatibility problem

Many file formats are proprietary at the moment, meaning that there is only one company that decides the fate of that file format. This has lead to major incompatibility issues, because many companies do not release any kind of documentation regarding their formats. This is done in order to confine users to use their own applications. However, this strategy also means that many users do not have access to those files, often due to hardware restrictions.

The patent debate

Although debates are still raging, a rough conclusion has risen, in the way that the most logical choice for a file format would be XML. In 1993, ITU-T attempted to establish the Open Document Architecture (ODA) that would replace competing file formats. However, it never managed to succeed.

Later, however, the Open Document Format was promoted, especially by the OpenOffice development team. The major fight has been against the leader on office solution, Microsoft, as they have subsequently refused to provide the documentation required for developers to create compatible applications. The fight is still being carried in the courts of the EU, who is threatening Microsoft with severe fines if the refuse to provide the documentation. At the same time, there is a rising trend towards abandoning proprietary file formats and embracing open standards.