If you didn’t already think of the internet as one of the all-time greatest time-saving devices (I mean, apart from it’s time-consuming aspects), let me put in a good word for our much-maligned digital communications network. A few weeks ago I was preaching on a Sunday on which I had never preached before, or so I thought. A careful search revealed that I had preached on this Sunday, but that was in the olden times when I relied on WriteNow as my word processor. I loved WriteNow, and I’m still a little sad that it fell by the wayside. But I’m even sadder that, as goes the business of software design, I no longer had any applications that would open my old WN files. There they sat in my “Sermons” directory, nondescript icons mocking me, inappropriate “kind” tags teasing me, and me with no way to prise open the files so that I could extract a few words that once seemed wise enough to preach.
Then on Tuesday, Simon “Webmink” Phipps mentioned the good work of the Document Liberation Project (on a Facebook post), an initiative to preserve access to files in defunct formats. “Oh, right,” sez I to Simon, “but what about my situation?” Simon, being a patient and gentle man, pointed to the specific page of the specific library on which several devs were working. Simon suggested that I send the devs some more documents to work on, so that they could benefit from wresting data from actual user-generated documents. That sounded good to me, but before I gathered up my sad old heaps of kilobytes I though I’d try to open some with LibreOffice.
Sure enough, much to my astonishment and delight, LibreOffice opened them right up. Yes, they showed lots of cruft; the filters aren’t by any means perfect. But that’s small potatoes compared to the relief and joy of seeing that I can open up those old files and retrieve at least part of what they once were. And you can bet that I’m spending time opening and re-saving those files in a more modern format.
Simon saved not only the time I would forever thereafter have spent banging my head against the wall trying to think of ways I might distill some text from these ancient files — he also saved for me the time I originally spent writing the files, and saved for me the years during which I was writing with WriteNow. So if I squander an hour or
two three several playing “2048 — Doctor Who Edition,” I still think I’m coming out ahead overall.
Thanks, Simon! Bless you (and I will be making a contribution to the DLP.