Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why the Microsoft Office file formats are so complicated

An interesting piece by Joel Spolsky, a guy who worked for Microsoft back in the day.

If you started reading these documents with the hope of spending a weekend writing some spiffy code that imports Word documents into your blog system, or creates Excel-formatted spreadsheets with your personal finance data, the complexity and length of the spec probably cured you of that desire pretty darn quickly. A normal programmer would conclude that Office’s binary file formats:

* are deliberately obfuscated
* are the product of a demented Borg mind
* were created by insanely bad programmers
* and are impossible to read or create correctly.

You’d be wrong on all four counts.

Being the charitable guy I am, I only thought the first, second and fourth bullet points were true.

The advice on how to work around the difficult specs is good.

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