You might think that word processed documents would be simple to preserve, but in fact they are not. Even the simplest documents contain tabs, bullets, indents, images, URL links, font changes, quotes, section headings, endnotes, embedded active content (such as spreadsheet cells). You could save the whole thing as a simple plain text file, but lose it all.

Yet at their core, word processed documents are too simple. They are flat, by which I mean non-hierarchical. Sections follow each other in sequence, heading and text and heading and text, but ultimately the word processing application only sees these sections in terms of their appearance. Word itself doesn’t understand that your fourth paragraph is a sub-division of the first paragraph. It is not a database. But 75 years from now, it is the structure of the document that people will be interested in, not the appearance. A word processing application takes your content and makes it look pretty.

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