Why open file formats matter

Cleaning up on my hard drive, I came across a couple of .wks (MS Works spreadsheet) documents from 1994-95. I don’t really need to get at the contents of these files right now, but I think it could be useful to be able to open them at some point. So I tried to see if I could open them with any of the office programs I have on my computer (MS Office, Numbers, OpenOffice, NeoOffice).

MS Works used to be a quite widespread office suite that came with a lot of machines back in those days, and it is actually still in sale. Therefore you would imagine that MS programs should be able to open files from previous versions. Strangely enough, I discovered that MS spreadsheet flagship Excel can’t open the old MS Works files.

I haven’t tried the Windows version of Excel yet, but if that doesn’t work I guess I have to start up an old computer that may have MS Works installed (or pay for some conversion program). Yet another reason for working with open file formats.

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.