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What are Microsoft and Adobe Up To?

I've had problems with e-posted 'Word' and 'Excel' files being converted to a strange default file-type signified by an 'x' after the normal suffix. These are locked, un-useable images.

I need occasionally to collate reports etc to help me at a club's committee meetings. These arrive as e-post attachments from different people so in a mixture of styles, software editions and files, but I want to put them in one neat style in one document I can print and archive properly. Today I tried to save two, both .pdf files so images unreliable to print, and difficult or impossible to edit, place in or render compatible with, proper documents.

However, whatever handles pdf files offers saving them in several other forms including ".doc", even offering British rather than US English, though that would not have mattered there. Only, the "Convert" button merely opens a sales page expecting me to pay £££/month to subscribe to an outfit called Adobe for what should be a basic MS-"Windows" option, allowing me as user simply to use my files as I wish!

Adobe keeps sending so-called "up-date" pop-ups, appearing before I open any programmes. They fail half-way through loading, because an instruction appears telling me to turn off the browser I'd have thought being used to receive the application; but the PC indicates no browser is open anyway!

We are all warned about illegal hackers and scammers. What about the legal ones then, eh, Mr. Gates?

Posted - January 1, 2017


  • 5354
    I have stopped letting Adobe upgrade itself at all. Too much risk of some crapware virus checker sneaking in and trying to install itself on top of the virus checker I already have.

    Instead, when I see that "You need to upgrade your flash" popup, I download and install a brand new version from the website. than means i have to re-set the setting I want, but I can be sure the software really come from Adobe, and as long as I find and unset the "suggested crapware" checkbox there is no risk of crapware polluting my computer. I expect it is a bit more expensive for Adobe to send the entire program every time, but that is a cost I am willing to let them pay.
      January 1, 2017 7:59 PM MST

  • 5354
    PS: Many file extentions are specific to some proprietary application. '.doc' files are made by Microsoft Word, and any other application making similar files must pay for a licence to use that extention. They dont wanna, so the usual practice is that they add an x calling their file .docx - That way they are not breaking copyright. but to read the file using Word you need to remove the x.
    Alas there are other situations where the final letter of an extension is 'x' so dont remove the 'x's as a matter of course, only when it wont work otherwise ;-))
      January 1, 2017 10:03 PM MST

  • 7919

    Hmm... I sort of agree and disagree with JakobA at the same time. .docx is MS Word. The extension changed several years ago.

    I can't tell based on what you've said exactly what you're dealing with, but it sounds like you're drying to deal with files for different programs. You can find free online tools to do the conversion for you, but the quality of the conversion varies. A couple weeks ago, one of my clients asked me to post a PDF to their blog. While I could attach the PDF, it wouldn't have been crawlable by Google and readers would have had to download it. I was too cheap to spring for the paid version of Adobe or the knockoff I run sometimes, so I just looked for a PDF to Word converter online. I tried several. The best one I got did ok, but it messed up the format and didn't convert a lot of the images, so I had to go through and grab screenshots and crop the remaining images, then try to move it into some kind of presentable format for the blog. The moral of the story is that it would have been easier if I'd just paid the money to have it converted with the PDF program I had.

    PDF is actually the more ideal choice for sharing reports because it's mostly universal. It's hard to explain if you don't have a tech background, but word processors use HTML code in the background that create the layout of the words. For example, my dad wrote a book in an old version of MS Word and he wanted me to help convert it for online sales. However, at the end of each chapter, he just hit the enter key until he landed on a new page. The background code showed up as a whole bunch of these ¶. When I opened up his doc on my version of MS Word, which was newer, it read and displayed those differently- the spacing was different, so none of the chapter heads were on new pages. I literally had to go through his whole book and remove all the paragraph breaks and replace them with page breaks. That way, all word processing programs knew the chapter heads belonged at the top of a new page. I've seen people have similar issues here- they used the spacebar or tab instead of using the alignment button to center things. When it renders, the content isn't really centered because the backend HTML is read differently and makes the spaces differently. 

    PDF means Portable Document Format and doesn't use the same background coding. So, when you go with PDF, you can mostly be sure that what you send is exactly what that person's going to see, no matter what version of a PDF reader they're using. It's great for sharing docs that don't need editing. If you need to edit them, though, it does become a pain. I'd suggest asking people to standardize their files. If you want them all to be in MS Word, then ask for a Word file. You'll still get goofy versions of docs because you won't all have the same version of Word, but it'll be easier for you to edit. The other thing you can try is using Google Drive to share docs... have the person copy/paste their report into a Google Doc. The worry there is that Google Docs do not render like word does, so if there are bullet points and stuff, they will be all kinds of crazy. The person sharing will have to format it for Google. But, at least you'll have a standard document type, open collaboration without sending files back and forth, and you'll all be on the same version of the program. Actually, Word is moving to the cloud as well, but I like keeping hard copies, myself. 

    Most of these programs are becoming cloud-based subscription programs. Even Windows has done this. Paying won't be an option soon- we'll all be doing it. I guess it'll save on upfront costs of systems, but hopefully it means better standardization when collaborating. 

      January 2, 2017 12:46 PM MST

  • 2960
    With the death of physical media, we will now rent our lives. Owning anything will be something from olden times.

    I will say the new rented version of Acrobat does have a lot of nice features. But that does not excuse their tactics. I guess Adobe had to make up losses from investing in Flash after they bought it from Macromedia. Remember when Adobe's site was entirely Flash based? HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This post was edited by Mr. Bromide at January 2, 2017 3:13 PM MST
      January 2, 2017 3:09 PM MST

  • 3694
    Thank you.

    These things are sprung on us. I first encountered the 'x' extension when I needed to send documents from my work computer to my home one (company pension matters, and the like).

    I have tried to ask fellow club officers to use straight .doc or .xls files but I don't think they can, even if they understood the problem. It does look as if this conversion from a working file to an image has been made automatic, and the sender may not even realise it's happened. 

    I think MS has introduced a system that wraps e-mailed files in a format you cannot use without paying extra for conversion software form MS or Adobe, or by hoping to find reliable free software. (If it's free how does its publisher recoup its costs?) 

    My biggest complaint is that files produced on MS software could always be exchanged safely in their original formats, and provided you made sure they did not become .pdf images, were easy to convert to other file-types, or to used, as necessary.

    This has come at an inopportune time for me for two reasons.
    Firstly I have now retired: I can't afford to keep paying upstart third-parties just so I can use private e-mail attachments that always worked with the standard software I've already bought.
    Secondly I wish to enquire about placing a set of large, fairly complex, 'Word' documents and scanned images on an archive run by a volunteer organisation. If it cannot receive the files properly, and make them available readably (but not editably) to anyone else, there will be no point and the information they hold risks eventual loss. I think I will have to ask if they can also hold a printed version: fire, flood and World War Three apart, paper-and-ink don't expire to please King William of Si-land. 

    I will have to discuss with the archivists the necessary format, assuming they want the material, so it will still be available in 2027. In fact I fear the vast amount of material it is collating digitally, will be available. I fear no present, computer-based system will allow even that modest 10 year life because that's against the commercial interests of Microsoft et al.   

    As a wider point, I think future researchers even at professional level, will find it very hard or impossible to read any electronic documents of any sort made now, because the computer trade deliberately renders the equipment and software obsolete within ridiculously short times.    

    MS and Adobe have decided to lock your files into formats (pdf and .---x) you can only unlock or convert by "subscribing" to Adobe, starting at about £40/year by present prices.
    If, further, they insist that all applications and data are on the dishonestly-named "cloud", you risk losing all control including of property rights and security, of your own data.

    It's a racket!
      January 2, 2017 3:00 PM MST

  • 2960
    Can you zip them first and then attach them to the email? Usually that "protects" the file from email programs from "corrupting" them. But I don't think I really understand the problem.

    You are right. Adobe has become a big scam. Subscribing to programs is the biggest scam. These companies don't want us to "own" anything and would rather have us rent our lives. 
      January 2, 2017 3:07 PM MST

  • 3694
    The problem I have is dealing with files sent to me. I found:

       +   If they are normal doc or xls I can use them: edit them, quote in parts, add to common documents under a cohesive style I apply.

       +   If they are pdf files I can use them as far as simply printing them, but even that's not very reliable. They are images that cannot be edited to collate them in common documents. It's here I found the Adobe racket, because MS' pdf-reader offers a conversion to other types, but the big blue "Convert" button in fact opens the Adobe sales page!

       +   If docx or xlsx they are locked in such a way they are images difficult or even impossible to use in any way at all.  

    I have found saving Excel files in earlier versions appears to protect them, but I don't know how reliably, or if it works with other file-types.

    I bought my PC with WIN 7 Pro loaded, and use BTinternet for e-mails and web access, and Bullguard anti-virus. I did try WIN-10 but it was a disaster despite great care to use the "Custom" installation, and I had to revert the machine to 7. I have wondered if these "extra-x" files are really designed to work only with WIN-10 and its own versions of 'Office' applications - which I found very poor.

    Footnote: One effect of Windows-10 was deleting my several web-site registrations. After reversion to 7, it proved difficult to restore them, as if Microsoft was not going to let users off lightly for mutiny. At least it had not installed WIN-10 un-asked, as apparently happened to a good many people. This post was edited by Durdle at January 2, 2017 4:17 PM MST
      January 2, 2017 4:08 PM MST