Newest Review: ... it colours which relates to the fact that you can convert your documents in a similar way. Each page has very little graphics and just ... more
The Word is, it Works, eventually, sort of...
Member Name: grahamt
Advantages: Only facility that appears to convert MS Works files
Disadvantages: Doesn't do a brilliant job of converting Works files
It has always been a mystery to me why Microsoft created two suites of applications that do essentially the same thing. I'm talking about Office and Works. OK, Works is clearly the cheapo "productivity" suite and as such doesn't have as much under it's belt as the vastly more expensive Office but even so, I can't see why anyone would bother with Works when you have something like OpenOffice available or, the more recent Google Online Application - Docs - to create documents, presentations and spreadsheets.
I suppose most users start making use of Works simply because it often comes ready installed on new PCs. Certainly, on my wife's it did. It had a full copy of Works, without any time restrictions plus a copy of Office on a 90 day trial. Certainly we never bothered obtaining a licence for Office when the 90 days were up. We have better things to do with our money. I even tried de-installing it but, in usual MS fashion they make that almost impossible. It seems to infiltrate the computer's systems like a virus.
So, naturally, my wife started migrating to using Works; it seemed to her to have everything she needed, which really wasn't much. Not only that but for those relatively inexperienced computer users, it provides a seemingly convenient front-end to all the things you might want to use. This includes such as Outlook Express, for your email. Just fire up the Works Control Panel and everything is just a click away.
Wife's job entails her needing to write lots of documents so the Works equivalent of Word started getting a lot of use. Mostly my wife worked, at that time, from home so compatibility wasn't really an issue. So long as she could create the document she wanted and print it off on the home printer, that was all she needed. It was printed documents that she sent to anyone who wanted them, not the actual files.
Then her job changed a bit and instead of just working from home she also had an office base that she needed to visit from time to time. That meant that she needed to have access to the files that she had created at home but on a computer provided there for shared use.
One day I'm at home doing the vacuuming (I'm retired, my wife isn't) and I get an anguished call from my beloved. She's emailed to herself at the office a file she created at home and she can't open it; can I please send her another copy. I open up her laptop and ask which file she wants. I find it and email it to her (I really should have asked questions first). A quarter of an hour later I get another call; that one doesn't work either.
Now I start asking questions. I ask her what she's trying to use to open the file on the office machine. She doesn't know; it's the one on the machine for writing documents. My wife isn't the most computer literate person in the World! Eventually, after a lot of "look in here" and "tell me what it says there" type questions we confirm that the office machine has MS Office but not Works. The file she has emailed herself is in Works format.
So, now we have a problem. How do we get the document into a format that Office (Word) can understand. Now, of course, the correct question we should be asking is, why is it that MS has made it so that a document created with one of their products simply cannot be understood by another MS product which does pretty much the same thing. In fact, could it only ever be MS who does things like this? I know of no other.
Now, we tried lots of things. Firstly we tried saving the Works document in Word format. Works claims that it can do this. The only problem is, it doesn't actually work. The document I tried to save was 24Kbs in Works format. When Works had saved it in Word format it took up a simply unbelievable 75Mbs!!!!! I emailed it to my wife and that alone took an eternity. When she tried opening it in Word she told me that she went away to make a cup of coffee and when she got back Word was still trying to digest it! Clearly it was suffering from a bad case of indigestion and after half an hour she cancelled it.
We tried other formats such as Rich Text Format (RTF) but none of our attempts came out with any better results. Finally I installed PrimoPDF and "printed" the document in PDF format. At least she would be able to print it locally, even if she couldn't change it (without full Adobe Acrobat that is, although even the standard version costs over £300). Sorting out getting it into Word compatible format would have to wait.
We never did really solve that problem. In many cases it was a case of having to recreate the document using OpenOffice (which I had installed on her home laptop). OpenOffice can import a whole raft of different file formats but Works isn't one of them, even though they've been promising it. I understand that Sun's Star Office version of OpenOffice has the capability but that's chargeable whereas OpenOffice is free. Even Google Docs can't import Works files although it does understand Word.
That was, until the other day when I read a review here by alphason about a website called Zamzar. I read his very good review in high hopes but was disappointed to read that conversion from Works format seemed not to be included (and I commented as much).
Still, my interest was piqued and so I went there to take a look. When I did, much to my surprise I discovered that there, hidden amongst the page upon page of document, image, audio (Zamzar calls it music!), video and compressed file formats, there indeed was ".wps", MS Works format, and Zamzar would convert it into, amongst others, MS Word document format! Just exactly what I needed, but what sort of a job would it make of it? The only way was to give it a try.
I chose the very file that had given us such problems. Zamzar offers a free conversion service for files under 100Mbs in size and this wasn't even a fraction of that. For this free service you don't even have to register with Zamzar. On the home page, in the middle of the screen is a row of boxes that you fill in with the information Zamzar needs in order to do the conversion. There are three tabs, Convert Files, Download Videos and Manage Files. In my case I was going to Convert Files.
The first box (Step 1) asks you to identify the file to be converted. You can type the name in the box itself but you are more likely to use the "Browse..." button alongside it to find the file. Having selected your file from the normal Windows pop-up panel, the file chosen is then listed below the boxes. There is a "Remove" button alongside the file name so that you can change your mind. You can select more files to convert but the free service limits you to a maximum of 5 at a time.
Step 2 is to choose the format into which you want to convert the file. I selected "doc". Then in Step 3 you enter your email address so that you can be notified when the conversion is complete. Finally, Step 4 is the Convert button, above which is a link to Zamzar's Terms and Conditions for using their service. The page then changes to show a blue bar that indicates the progress of the upload of the file to be converted to Zamzar. That's followed by a "File Uploaded" webpage. Now all you have to do is wait.
Well, we waited... and waited... and waited...
Zamzar seems to take an interminable length of time to complete the conversion. I appreciate that this is a free service and that the website clearly states that this is a Beta implementation but, come on!!!! It was several hours later that the email announcing success arrived. As a service if you were desperately waiting for the converted file in order to get on with some work, it would have been a dismal failure. I'm guessing that whilst this is still a service in development they haven't dedicated a whole load of resource to carrying out the conversions. Whether or not this will change in time remains to be seen.
Zamzar has four classes of service from Free to Business at a monthly fee of $49. The free service offers no priority guarantee for conversion whilst Business offers "High" but doesn't state what High actually means. The two service in between (Basic and Pro), cost $7 and $16 respectively. It's not just the conversion priority that varies with cost. Maximum file size, number of concurrent conversions increase as well and with the paid versions you get to store your files on-line at Zamzar. For the free conversion they only offer to keep the converted files for 24 hours.
Well, the email finally arrived. The link it provided to the converted file enabled it to be downloaded to the local computer. The job it had made of the conversion was reasonable but lacking in several respects. For instance, although all the text was there and in pretty much the right places, some graphics were missing and most of all, the background pattern was entirely missing. Still it gave something to work on that didn't require us to start again from scratch. Some way to go before it's a perfect conversion though.
Most of all the resultant file hadn't ended up the simply stupid size that Works had created when it had tried to do the job. So, for the requirement at hand, Zamzar generally must be awarded a qualified success. In so far as it is the only means of which I know that converts Works files to other formats in any way shape or form, that makes it the only game in town!
Zamzar does seem to have a few unique features, such as the ability to do a conversion from a URL link to a website. One specific use for this is to convert videos directly from the YouTube website and other similar websites.
I have to confess that I cannot foresee any circumstances under which I would be likely to want to pay for one of Zamzar's upgraded services. The frequency with which we would need to convert a file format, this likely only ever to be Works, is limited and so we can live with the current slow turnaround and incomplete conversion. Anyway, my wife is now finally using OpenOffice at home and with that you can save the files it creates in any number of formats, including MS Word.
As it is, I am pleased to have found Zamzar. It's partially cured a nasty headache. Thanks, Dr alphason.
Summary: An online conversion facility for converting a whole load of different file formats