Overcoming Compatibility Issues
When working with staff members through electronic means, all parties must be able to access the same information. Sometimes, however, the information cannot be accessed due to incompatibility issues. Incompatibility may be due to file formats or hardware.
The most obvious incompatibility issue takes place when participants are using competing software, or different versions of the same software. The software may perform the same general function, but may not use the same file formats or protocols. Examples of competing software include:
- Microsoft's Office Suite and Lotus SmartSuite.
- Skype and Apple's FaceTime.
- iMac and PC computers.
- Apple iPhones and Android smart phones.
- Kindle and Nook readers.
In some cases, developers have provided bridges that overcome compatibility issues. For examples, Microsoft Word and Lotus Word Pro permit users to save files to mutual file formats, including PDF and RTF.
Version incompatibility happens when:
- An application no longer supports older file formats.
- An application is too old to support newer file formats.
Backward compatibility issues, or the inability to read older file formats, are rare because most applications support older file formats. An example of this is Microsoft Word. The newer versions of Word create files with the extension .docx. This newer version of Word can read the older .doc files, but older versions of Word cannot read the newer .docx files.
Older hardware may not be able to handle the resource requirements of newer software. Many newer applications, particularly those that use video or high-resolution images, can overwhelm old systems.
Overcoming and Preventing Problems
Should a staff member not be able to read a document due to software or version incompatibilities:
- Save the document to an older version using the Save As feature.
- Have your staff member download a "viewer" that will allow him or her to read the document.
- Find an alternate format for the document. For example:
- A word processing document may be saved as:
- A PDF file, which can be read with Acrobat Reader.
- An RTF file, which can be read by most word processing applications.
- An Excel spreadsheet can be exported to a comma-delimited or tab-delimited file and imported into another spreadsheet program.
- A JPG file or other image file may be converted from one file format to another using a downloadable converter.
- Use an open source version of an application; for example, two free, open source office suites that communicate with Microsoft Office are:
- Open Office for PCs.
- Neo Office for Macs.
In situations in which older hardware, such as a computer or device, cannot perform the desired function:
- Eliminate non-essential media.
- Reduce resolutions of documents, images and videos.
- Find alternative communication media for resource-heavy objects.
Proactive planning can prevent problems. When preparing to communicate with others:
- Find out what software the participants are using and plan documents accordingly.
- Choose the "lowest common denominator" solution; the solution that works with the oldest technology.