Pages ’09: ‘The file format is invalid’

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Microsoft, Pages
July 4th, 2013 • 4:15 pm

Ever got this error when you tried to open a Word document in Pages ’09?

The file format is invalid

I just did, and I now know why.

See, Microsoft Word users in general and Windows users in particular are so confused about file extensions, and Microsoft’s user interface for dealing with file extensions is so confusing, that sometimes they do things that Microsoft and Apple did not anticipate, like… saving a DOCX file with the “.doc” file extension.

That’s exactly what happened in this case. When I got the error with this particular “.doc” file and noticed that it was opening in Word 2011 just fine, I figured I’d try to change the file extension to “.docx” and see what would happen.

Sure enough, as soon as I changed the file extension, the renamed file opened just fine in Pages ’09.

In this day and age, you’d think that:

  1. Microsoft Word would be smart enough to detect the error and give a warning to the user to the effect that the file he’s opening is a DOCX file masquerading as a DOC file, and offer to fix the problem;
  2. Apple’s Pages ’09 would be smart enough to recognize the correct file format in spite of the wrong file extension and offer to open the file just the same, again with some kind of warning about the file extension.

But no… Both companies obviously have bigger fish to fry, and so we get no warning whatsoever in Microsoft Word, and a useless error message with no suggestion in Pages ’09.

As for smartness in computer software, I guess it’ll take another century or two.

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