Why do people compress files — or use PDFs?

Here’s a pet peeve. I needed to share with a colleague a handful of Word files that had been sent to me. Unfortunately, they had been e-mailed to me as a compressed folder attachment, and my colleague didn’t have the unzip software.

So I had to unzip the things, save them to a folder, and then e-mail them to her.

My question is, why do people do that — create unnecessary barriers that just make work on both ends? The total size of all these files was less than a 72 dpi photo, so there was no need whatsoever. The e-mail went out in the blink of an eye.

I can only conclude that such items are generated by people who don’t know much about computers, or whose knowledge is 10 years out of date.

And another thing — why are so many things on the Web in PDF format, which takes my browser SO much longer than HTML, and can’t be searched as easily, and all sorts of other mean, nasty, ugly things? I can understand when it’s an image of a document that only exists in hard copy form — say, a 30-year-old newspaper page. But most documents these days start out in electronic form. Why not keep things simple, and keep the interaction smooth?

The usual culprits in this instance are academics.

5 thoughts on “Why do people compress files — or use PDFs?

  1. just saying

    .pdf files are great if you want to post something as a completed document (like a journal article or brochure) where you want a specific format that doesn’t change from computer to computer.
    Cascading style sheets allow for that to be done a lot better through a standard web-page than the early days of .html — but it is still not as flexible and is much more painful to do than taking a word document (or whatever) and hitting “print as .pdf”.
    A reason for not usimg word itself is that the person on the other end has to have at least as recent of a version as the one you used (which isn’t always the case for PC people, let alone the mac or linux people.) And even if they do have the same version it will usually appear with all those squiggly gramar check lines and whatnot.
    The zipping, that’s a harder one. The only time I ever use it is when I’m trying to e-mail an executable file of some sort because a lot of e-mail programs block those.

  2. John P. Baker

    PDF is the preferred format for documents in that for all supported platforms it appears exactly the same to all viewers, regardless of what platform you are running on or what browser you are using.
    DOC is generally not aceptable for out-of-house transmissions. First, many people don’t have Microsoft Word, or have a different version than what you have. Second, if you have a different default printer type, the text will be displayed differently, in order to accommodate the characteristics of that printer type.
    Compressing a file or files using ZIP package should only be done for a large file, for a set of files, where you wish to retain the original file date, or where you wish to encrypt the file or files for security reasons, and should always require the prior agreement of the intended recipient or recipients.
    Common sense should be the guide in all cases. Sadly, that is not the norm.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Gravy train? Waste?

      But… but… how can this be? SCANA is a leading business in the private sector! Help me, Doug — I don’t understand!!!

      Oh, wait… Santee Cooper was involved!

      That explains it, right? Anything the government touches… 🙂

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