Subverting Word Processors

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to store my documents in subversion. But what to do? Word processors all seem to produce ugly binary documents. Even though’s odt files are basically just zip files, it’s still putting zipfiles into your subversion repository.

Why is this a problem? Because you can’t see what’s changed. And if I make a change in two places, the tool can’t merge the changes for me. Not automatically and not without some hassle, anyway.

Having grappled with this a little bit over the last couple of weeks, I’m coming to the conclusion that the only safe format for storing files in is RTF. Thankfully, not only is it plain-text, but it’s also understood by the vast majority of word processors out there, including the lowly TextEdit and WordPad.

Comments 4

  1. Danny Hope wrote:

    Have you considered storing your files as HTML? I’ve been using Google Docs recently and it outputs as HTML. As it goes it also has really good versioning built-in, but I suppose that defeats the object of this this post.

    Posted 13 Feb 2007 at 20:55
  2. Dominic Mitchell wrote:

    HTML probably isn’t a bad option actually. But the UIs for it are not that great.

    I have tried google docs (well, Writely), and I like it. But I’m kind of paranoid about keeping things on servers that I own…

    Posted 13 Feb 2007 at 23:12
  3. unzip OO.o files? wrote:

    Hi Dom,

    Have you experimented with say an Ant build file that unzips your OO.o document when you check it in and then rezips it when you want the whole doc back?


    Posted 14 Feb 2007 at 08:48
  4. Dominic Mitchell wrote:

    Jez: It’s not a bad idea. In fact I might well end up trying it. Combined with the fact that you can convince OpenOffice to save xml “formatted” (i.e. indented correctly), you could set up a macro to automatically unpack on save… Hmmm… Definitely have to play with that. Thanks!

    Posted 14 Feb 2007 at 17:40