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MORE JOEL ON SOFTWARE: Further Thoughts on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity by Joel Spolsky

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eighteenWHY ARE THE MICROSOFTOFFICE FILE FORMATS SOCOMPLICATED? (AND SOMEWORKAROUNDS)

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2008

Last week, Microsoft published the binary file formats for Office. These formats appear to be almost completely insane. The Excel 97-2003 file format is a 349-page PDF file. But wait, that's not all there is to it! This document includes the following interesting comment:

Each Excel workbook is stored in a compound file.

You see, Excel 97-2003 files are OLE compound documents, which are, essentially, file systems inside a single file. These are sufficiently complicated that you have to read another nine-page spec to figure that out. And these "specs" look more like C data structures than what we traditionally think of as a spec. ...

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