File Types & the Future

As indicated in yesterday’s post, Paper Outlasts Digital, my paper documents are outlasting my digital files. Before continuing my scanning project, I wanted to see if I should switch how I’m storing my scanned images.

After a quick Google search for ‘file formats that last’, I found some advice from what I would consider to be ‘experts’

First, I found a post by the National Archives and Records Administration regarding Digital File Types. From this article, I learned that NARA’s Photographic Imaging, Microfilm and Textual Preservation Lab uses the TIFF format for master preservation and reproduction. Thankfully, that is the format I’m using to scan the majority of my paper. When it comes to sharing files, the JPG format is also used.

However, I may have to re-think how I’m scanning multi-page documents. I’ve been using the PDF format. According to the article, the Photographic Imaging, Microfilm and Textual Preservation Lab are using the PDF format for distribution purposes only. Thus, my practice of using PDF to store what I would call ‘master’ files may need to be changed.

Secondly from the PC World article, “How to Archive Files so They’ll Stay around for Years”  by Lincoln Spector, comes the advice

“And just to be safe, if it’s possible, save the same files in more than one format. Save and store documents in .docx, .doc, .pdf, and .html. For photos, go with .jpg and .png. For music, .mp3 and .wav.”

Paper Outlasts Digital

Yesterday, I was in the process of scanning documents in one of my family binders when I came across what looked like a word processed document. After digging in my files for a while, I asked my husband what software I might have used prior to a specific date. His reply was that I didn’t use any software — but TYPED the document. After thinking about his answer, I know he is right.

However, in the process of trying to find the digital copy of the document, I discovered a lot of older files. These files need converted from the older software to newer versions so that the information in the files can be accessed. Basically, there are three types of files and three distinct challenges.


The .wps files proved the easiest. I used the online service, ZAMZAR, to convert the files. Basically, the free version requires the uploading of the file, patience, and retrieval of the converted file via email. It is possible to purchase an account that allows for uploading batches of files and downloading them as zip files. My .wps files converted to .docx files without issue. These files can also be converted to .pdf


My .wdb files are proving to be more challenging. Unfortunately, Zamzar doesn’t handle this type of file. So far, I haven’t found a converter that will allow Microsoft Excel to open the file. After discovering that I still have Microsoft Works installed on my computer, I tried opening the files with that software only to be told the file was corrupted. I was able to open the file with Notepad and verify that there is data in the file. Since several of these files were indexing projects from naturalization books, I need to figure out how to retrieve the data. (This data was published in the newsletter at the time.)

Fortunately, some of the files will open. This should allow me to export the data from those files.


After struggling with the Microsoft Works files, I decided to open my Microsoft Access files and get the data exported to Excel. I’ve found that some of those files will not open. Based on Google searches, I’m going to try locating an older version of Access to see if I can open the files and get it converted either to a newer version or to excel.

I know that I should have tried to convert these files before now — especially since that is one of the comments about going digital. However, I let my genealogy sit and didn’t think about trying to open the files — particularly the indexing projects.

Fortunately, these projects had been placed online at the time and I have the old .html files. Thus, the data is still available on the web — just not on my local computer.

Lessons learned:

  • Paper outlasts digital
  • Open files of various types annually
  • Keep old copies of software around (and potentially an older computer to run it)
  • Put it on the web
  • Possibly — save it in .txt format

Resurrecting the Old

After a recent query about the old CCC website, I’ve been on a quest to find the old files and get them back on the web. In the process, I’ve discovered a need for

  • a floppy drive – was able to borrow one
  • software to open .epd files (express publisher)
  • software to open .qic files (old backup files)

Unfortunately, I haven’t found the software to access the .epd and .qic files.

Fortunately, most of the old files were in .html format. Thus, I was able to use those old files to re-create the web sites. I elected to use a Google site since it is free and relatively easy to use. In order to get the old files into the new site, I copied the code into the ‘html’ view for each page. This project is still a work in progress, but I have a lot of the old Nemaha County Genealogy Society web site back online.

Within this site, I have included the Civilian Conservation Corps site that was created in 2001 as a student project at Nemaha Valley High School. I am planning to add the files for the other two projects completed at that time: Great Depression and Veterans.

Besides these student projects, I’m hoping to get some of my husband’s work on the web. This would include the 1995 History of Seneca booklet and hopefully the issues of Pioneer Press he wrote along with the Nemaha County cemetery map. (Wish me luck with this! This is the area where I need to find old software and perhaps an old computer.)