How many times have you asked someone to email you a file, only to find that you’re unable to open it once it arrives? Files created in different versions of the same software, or on different operating systems, can present problems when users try to open them. This often results in endless frustration, and then there’s the time wasted trying to figure out the best way to share the files, or having to reformat them so the recipient can open them.
File compatibility issues can cost businesses a significant amount of money in terms of wasted time – and if the files can’t be shared efficiently, it can actually disrupt the flow of business. However, there are some steps that businesses and individuals can take to ensure that compatibility issues don’t cost time and money, and affect working relationships.
Going the Easy Way
One way to simplify compatibility issues is to communicate. When you send – or request – a file, confirm that you will be able to open the file when it arrives. Ask which file types are supported and do your best to send a compatible format.
Many businesses have attempted to work around this issue by using Google Docs or another cloud-based file sharing service. However, using this service doesn’t guarantee compatibility; in fact, Google recently announced that the service would no longer support older versions of Microsoft Office documents. What this means for you is that if you create a file with the doc extension, you won’t be able to save it to Google Docs and share. Google does offer a compatibility plugin, but users often report some issues with the solution, such as lost formatting and stylistic issues.
Another issue that causes compatibility problems is the fact that many people create documents across many platforms, using different programs. For example, you might create a document in Microsoft Word on your PC, but then use Apple Pages to write something on your iPad. In today’s bring your own device business environment, these multiple platforms can create compatibility headaches, and many IT professionals advise users to choose one platform and stick with it to avoid compatibility problems.
PC to Mac and Back Again
These days, one of the greatest debates among computer users is which is better, the PC or the Mac? Both have their merits – and because so many people use both operating systems, engineers have created ways to share files between the two. In fact, you can purchase Office software for a Mac, or export documents created on iWork software to Office formats. Mac users can also automatically convert Office files into compatible versions, or use plugins and free software to open files.
Beyond Communication: Software
In some cases, it’s simply not possible to send or receive a file in a compatible format. That’s when a program, such as EasyFileViewer, can be a useful tool. These programs automatically detect the right program for opening files, and convert unreadable files into a compatible format.
The advantage to using file reading software is that you save time when trying to open incompatible file formats. For example, if you open a file in Windows that can’t be read by your existing software, you have the option of searching for a program that will open the file. In some cases, you can download a trial or free version of the software that will allow you to open the file in question, but in other cases, you may need to purchase the software. If you regularly encounter the incompatible file type, such a purchase may be worthwhile, but for a one-time project, you probably don’t want to incur the expense – not to mention cluttering your system with a program that you seldom use.
File compatibility issues don’t have to slow you down and reduce your productivity – or profitability. Understanding how you can open and share files from different operating systems, and installing software that allows you to automatically convert all file types to compatible versions will keep you working – and from ever having to say, “I can’t open the file.”
About the Author: Graphic designer and writer Jane Harmel shares files with people all over the world – and often hears from clients who claim to be unable to open files. She has written a guide to file compatibility that she shares with clients, and that other designers have adopted to save time and hassle in their own businesses.