One File Format to Rule Them All

Long long ago in a galaxy far far away, I discovered a word processor (well, my parents bought one) and I felt my imaginative world open in front of me. I was no longer limited by the typewriter and could write – and edit – all my terrible stories without having to rewrite entire pages.

I wrote every idea that came to mind and when I was thirteen, I got the idea of writing a novella – which I finished, but never polished. Everything was saved on floppy disks and I made copies and copies, fearing to lose a single tale.

In time, my parents changed word processors and in doing so, I ran into my first real pain point of the digital age — incompatible file formats. Loading up my old stories brought forth cryptic error messages and what was once super easy to access was then gated behind a file format.

Thirty something years later, things haven’t gotten any better. In fact, I’d say, things have gotten worse.

I’ve bounced between a number of processors throughout the years such as Word, WordPerfect, StarOffice, Open Office, Neo Office, Final Draft, Libre Office,  and lately Scrivner. Each contains their own file format. Each provides another way to lose your work. Each is useless when the original software is no longer supported.

I thought I had licked the issue of file formats in the early 2000s when there was a big push to go to open file formats, so I converted all my stories to the sxw. This was the file format for Star Office which would later become Open Office.

Lately, I decided to read my old documents in sxw and lo and behold, I couldn’t open them! This is absolutely maddening. And looking through my archive, I see that I have an assortment of sxw and odt files. With Scrivner, I now have scriv files.

I love Srciver but based on my experience with Final Draft, I have no idea how long it’s going to be around and it may not understand the older files.  I want to be able to access my stories, not publish them.

For that, I’ve come back to the one file format that’s been around since time immortal … that’s the text file. This simple format can be read by anything is guaranteed to be readable for as long as computers are running.

While it doesn’t contain any formatting, that’s the least of my concern. Longevity is the goal here.

The good news is that Scrivener compiles down text files so my current stories are in good shape … it just means I have 20+ years of story backlog to get through.

Time to get to work!

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