Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This Presentation Can’t Be Opened Because It’s Too Old

Stefan Urbanek:

I was greeted with this message today when I was about to publish few more presentations on Slideshare about Knowledge Management. The offending presentation is from 2008. I have around 20 files created in older Keynote versions. They are not the disposable kinds of presentations – you know, the ones that you prepare, project and forget about them. I like to reuse them, show when I’m talking about various subjects contained in them.

How I am supposed to access them now? “save it with Keynote ’09 first”, but how? I don’t have Keynote ’09 any more on my fresh Mavericks install.

And, of course, Keynote ’09 will at some point stop working on new Macs. Apple—and, to a lesser extent, other developers such as Microsoft—cannot be relied upon to support old file formats. The responsibility then falls to the user. If you use an app that creates files in a proprietary format, as soon as a new version comes out you should update all of your documents to the new format. It’s not fun to do this, but there will probably never be an easier time. And it may be a lossy process, so you should also keep the versions in the older format.

Update (2014-03-20): Drew Crawford:

If you are arguing that Apple “should have” implemented this feature, you are also arguing that there are people who want to buy it, and that is a point that is fairly easy to prove.

I do not find this to be a convincing argument. It reminds me of the old joke about how an economist won’t pick up a coin on the ground because, if it were real, someone else would have already found it.

Update (2014-04-14): Thomas Brand:

Even after iWork became a thing, I still find it hard to believe Apple is using its office suite for anything but presentations. Keynote ’09 will stop working on new Macs eventually, and it is hard to ask a company as large as Apple to update every file in its record of knowledge every couple of years.

Update (2014-11-24): The lack of file format compatibility is discussed in Accidental Tech Podcast #90.

6 Comments

[...] speaking of file format longevity, Kendall Whitehouse [...]

Or alternatively, you can keep virtual machines around with the old programs on them.

Eric Trepanier

While I agree with the premise, I find that virtual machines are a good solution around this problem.

I have Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, 10.8 virtual machines, where I keep versions of applications I used at one point so that I can still browse old data files if needed.

As an example, my old copy of Quicken 2007 still runs perfectly well in my 10.6 VM. I've long since moved on to another money management app (MoneyWell), but I still have access to my old historical financial data.

I like virtual machines, too, but it seems like they postpone the problem without really solving it. The virtual machine image is itself a giant document that you have to make sure you’ll continue to be able to open.

And can you really be sure that you have everything in the VM image that you need? For example, doesn’t QuickBooks rely on online activation?

"Apple—and, to a lesser extent, other developers such as Microsoft—cannot be relied upon to support old file formats."

While this is literally true, it radically understates the case. Microsoft can generally be relied upon to support proprietary old file formats for a reasonably long time, while anyone who stores data in an Apple proprietary file format is literally insane.

(As always, the exception used to be .mov, but even that is coming to an end.)

"And can you really be sure that you have everything in the VM image that you need? For example, doesn’t QuickBooks rely on online activation?"

In the case of Intuit, the Apple/Microsoft proprietary file format support dichotomy gets fractally reproduced at the OS level. I'd assume old Windows QuickBooks files would work just fine, while things are different on OS X.

Hence, you should deal with Intuit as Nicholas Riley deals with dictation; a Windows VM just for very specific purposes.

[...] read an article today about how some people are unable to open older documents created by earlier versions of Pages, [...]

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