Archival Format

march 19, 2007

While reading an article on the OpenDocument format a question popped into my mind.  The idea behind the OpenDocument format sounds great and all, but there really is not any good support for the format right now.  OpenOffice.org is the biggest application to truly support it (since the OpenDocument format is based off of the original OpenOffice.org format).  KOffice supports it.  For straight text documents there is Abiword and Google Docs.  For spreadsheets there's Google Spreadsheets and Gnumeric.  The last four apps do not support the OpenDocument format natively. So, what I was wondering is what format would someone keep their documents -- mainly formatted text -- in if they wanted to archive it digitally.  ASCII text is great for archiving just plain text, but what if you want to keep your document formatted? Sadly, the document formats with the greatest support are Microsoft's Word .doc format and Microsoft's Rich Text Format (.rtf).  The .doc format is too volatile, as Microsoft continues to change it.  The .rtf format seems like a decent format since the underlying file is human readable -- and there is an abundance of support for the format.  Would you archive your documents in the .rtf format? What about HTML?  Most applications can export to HTML format and import from HTML format.  It is not a native format for any word processor I know of.  But would archiving into HTML format be prudent? Or just forgo the formatting and store in plain ASCII text? What data format would you archive your documents in?  And would that choice change if you were working on multiple platforms (Windows, Mac and Linux)?