Getting from Format A to Format B: Mapping out conversions of your digital documents and files

Have you ever seen the signs on the side of the road offering services for converting videotapes to DVD?  Do you worry that the digital pictures you take today might not be viewable 10 years from now?

As we move forward in a digital age, there will always be older formats that need to be brought up to speed with newer technology.  Do you wish that you could simply go out on the web and find a place that will tell you what type of software is available to convert those older digital formats into something more current? 

NCAST research partners have developed a web application called the Conversion Software Registry (CSR) that can help you find a tool to go from:

  • an Adobe PDF document to an editable text format (.txt),
  • digital video to MP4s,
  • a Microsoft Excel document to PDF, or
  • over 20,000 other conversions from almost any format to almost any other format. 

The CSR won’t read your mind though; you do have to know what you are starting out with and what you’ll end up with.  For example movie and music files are not the same as a document file, so you wouldn’t be converting something from a video file to a document file.  It’s like mapping out a road trip. 

Check out the CSR webpage to learn about the registry and what it does.  There is a link at the bottom of that page that takes you to the actual conversion tool.  Try entering “PDF” as the input and “txt” as the output, and you will get a list of 24 possible tools that can perform the conversion.  If you are curious about the software tools listed, you can search by name under the “Software” tab.

The CSR is just one of the projects that NCAST has helped fund.  NCAST’s research partner, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, began the development of this application.

Through another partnership with the Potomac State College of West Virginia University, NCAST student interns at our lab in Rocket Center, WV are helping to add to the CSR, to ensure continued access to your photographs, your videos, and all the other forms of electronic media that document your life.

We’d like to know about your experience using the registry, and whether it is useful to you.  Just leave your comments below.

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