Proprietary Formats

This afternoon, I spent nearly three hours just applying for housing at the University of Minnesota, the school I will be attending next semester. It is ridiculous that it took me this long to fill out the online application. First, a major issue was that the website required Internet Explorer, so I had to snag the family laptop that has Windows; my Macs were not going to work.

I got the application filled out, but I had to print out a final form to send back to the university signed with a signature. Here is where the problem with proprietary formats started. There are two printers in my house: one hooked up to my iMac and one hooked up to the family PC running Ubuntu. My printer was out of ink, otherwise it would have worked fine with the laptop, because it is newer and it uses a standard USB connection. However, the family printer uses an old parallel connector, which would not connect to the laptop. Therefore, I just quickly saved the page into the Microsoft Document Imaging format (external link), which I thought I could print out rather easy on another computer. Wrong.

To my disappointment, the MDI format turned out to be a proprietary Microsoft format. I spent about an hour trying to convert the file into something that could be read on my Mac, but I had no success in finding a conversion program that actually worked. I ended up driving down to my mother's business to use her PC to print out the form. Utterly ridiculous.

Mac OS X can save anything as a PDF that is going to be printed. I thought that the MDI format would be similar to PDF; and it is, except that the format is entirely closed. As I sat there about ready to go into a mental breakdown, I wondered why Windows XP would not just let me save the printer output as a PDF or as some other open image format? Proprietary file formats simply suck. I am glad that frustration is over finally.



  • On XP if you install Acrobat reader you get a PDF printer added to your list of printers. What it does is send the file to Acrobat and saves it as a PDF rather then sending it to a regular printer.

    Posted by -=Hero Doug=- on Fri 22 Feb 2008 at 8:27

  • I've nenver heard of MDI but you should have just saved it as a DOC or something.

    Also, with the printer, you could have set it up as a network printer. First chare it (I have no idea how to do this on a mac or linux machine) then install it as a network printer on the XP machine. As long as its all on the same network it should work fine.

    Posted by Matt Oakes (external link) on Fri 22 Feb 2008 at 18:46

  • Did you really expect anything different with a Microsoft product? =/

    Posted by Frans (external link) on Sat 23 Feb 2008 at 9:17

  • The laptop pretty much only has the basics: Opera, Open Office, and Google Desktop. Plus a few games. I'll try the Acrobat reader thing though.

    Matt, you cannot save to a .doc through the printer window. I guess I could have saved it as HTML, but can you do that in IE? I know you can in Opera.

    I just don't understand because I'm use to in OSX where you can save anything being printed as a PDF without anything extra, it's just a default feature. Nor do I understand why the format need be proprietary.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Sat 23 Feb 2008 at 16:49