sharing the printed word
By relling on Aug 23, 2004
For a long time I've had a nagging warning going off in my mind when I try to share a document with others. Generally, I much prefer to send the PDF or other printable form rather than send the source of a document (usually StarOffice). In the past, I've taken the stand that if I give you editable copy, then I'll lose control of the copy. Its not that I don't trust others with my words, but in reality, I really don't trust anyone with my words. I guess it is some sort of paranoid reaction I can trace back to my days working for NASA, where forms control and auditing are critically important.
But there is another reason why you don't want to pass around the source of your documents today. Way back when word processors were first invented, they looked very much like electronic versions of the typewritten page. You might have a few format characters added, or some crude graphics, but the words in the document were intended to be the words on paper. This is no longer the case. As we add features intended to control the workflow of documents or to enhance our ability to have multiple versions, a whole bunch of metadata is now commonly part of the document. Just this morning, a very interesting article on metadata was published. This article points out that if you send the source of a modern office document to someone, then all of the metadata goes with it, and can be interpreted. To be sure that the recipients get what you want them to see, stick with the printable form.