Popular Science on format conversion

Popular Science has an article, “How to convert any file to any format.” The title overreaches, but the article actually isn’t too bad. It’s addressed at the ordinary user, not the file format specialist, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to complain too much that it has more breadth than depth.

It starts by recommending using the application that created the file, and that’s certainly good advice. Even when formats are open standards, an app knows more about how it creates its own files than anyone else does. Its files might have bits of application-specific information.

The article mentions conversion software that I’m not familiar with. I’ve just installed XnConvert, which the writer praises, and find the user interface very hard to figure out. If it’s hard for me, it’s going to be hard for most people.

The article is just a short one for a general audience, but I wish it had mentioned something about the risks in conversion. Converted files can look different from the originals when viewed. They can lose metadata, resolution, or bit depth. Some conversion paths are better than others.

But for the people the article is intended for, the advice is helpful. It makes them aware of the range of options and gives them some things to try.

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