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Robert Johnson reports: <<My company makes a product that manages both plain
ASCII text and binary files (such as graphic files or .pdf files). A
significant portion of our end-user audience is not very computer-savvy, so
our marketing people object to us referring to "binary files" in our
Good for your marketers! The solution to your problem really depends on what
you're trying to say. The problem with "binary" is that it refers to the
programmer's viewpoint, not the user's viewpoint. Users just want to know
what they can do with the files and how to do it. Here's an example of how
you'd write to avoid the use of binary: "You can open text files (files with
the .txt extension) in your word processor. However, graphics files can only
be edited using graphics software. You can, however, insert these files in
word processor files by opening the Insert menu and selecting Graphic."
See the difference? I'm writing about what the user might want to do and how
they'd do it. The specific details of the nature of the file are irrelevant
other than insofar as they affect how to use the file. Revise my "off the
cuff" example as appropriate for your specific context.
<<Has anyone had to use a synonym for "binary file"?>>
If you really need to discuss the actual format of the file, then it's worth
teaching the terminology. Readers shouldn't always need to learn new terms
to use your product, but that doesn't mean we should be afraid to educate
them and expand their knowledge when doing so is appropriate.
--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
Vah! Denuone Latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur. (Oh! Was I
speaking Latin again? Silly me. Sometimes it just sort of slips
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