Formats age. A question is how and, perhaps even more importantly, when to migrate to newer versions.

My Adobe PDF reader updated the other day, and I suddenly received this notice when opening a file:

The first thought I had was: This is might not be “OK”. Next came the questions: Should I worry?  Was I about to lose some important information? and Do I really have to do anything about this?

Naturally, these pop-ups and the questions they raise aren’t limited to PDF and Adobe. We see messages like this show up often in many of our software apps – notices of missing plug-ins, fonts that can’t be located, files that can’t be opened because the software is outdated, etc.

In this series we will take a look at various data formats, what information is contained in the formats and carried through in format conversion, and how software works to open files and give us access to the data. While Bevara generally advocates preserving and not converting, we realize that preserving data in its original format is not the answer for every situation, so along the way we will discuss when to “normalize”,  the times when it might be fine to yield on conversion parameters – maybe we can accept one font in place of another or perhaps our customers will never need a particular feature associated with the file — and how to tune formats to get the most of out of them when normalizing.

We are fortunate to be able to spend time with many people, especially within the archivist community, who have already invested a great deal of  thought into how and when to preserve their data – we’d love to hear from you. Send us your thoughts, questions, or suggestions to and we’ll be happy to address them in future columns or answer you directly.