Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tired of the Metadata . . .

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m tired of word processors including metadata.

Oh, I know it serves a purpose. That’s where embedded links are stored. That’s where document comments are stored. That’s where information on fonts, pagination, and other text effects are stored. This and that and the other thing is why word processors like Open Office and Microsoft Office 2010 include metadata with their document files.

I’m just tired of the metadata.

Why? Because of cut and paste.

When I cut and paste a document, I’m not all that bebothered if I have to go through and reformat my text. I’m not that bothered if I have to re-establish links. If I want to send someone a document with embedded comments, I send them the document with embedded comments. When I cut and paste, I want the text. That’s all I’m interested in.

And yet when I cut and paste from most every word processor these days into web WYSWYG editors (such as what we use at Uncharted and what’s used at the metadata is cut and pasted as well, and more often than not simply turns up as plain text that I can’t see unless I go into HTML mode and strip it all out – which is a pain in the rump. It’s especially painful at Uncharted, where we do not have the HTML mode option.

I can’t be the only one noticing this, nor the only one complaining about it. But several searches into the Googleplex don’t reveal much metadata carping. Oh, there are plenty of people willing to tell you how to strip metadata from documents, either through freeware or paid services, but they take it more along the lines of privacy protection than not befouling WYSWYG editors.

Yes, I can generally strip the metadata by saving a file as .rtf or .txt, but should I really have to take that extra step in order to avoid pasting the metadata in where I don’t want it? Maybe word processor developers could add a “copy with metadata” option, leaving the ordinary “copy” for simple text without the underlying foundation.

Yes, such a thing can be accomplished through, for example, macros like this that allow removal of hidden data (at least from Open Office documents) but this feature ought to be integrated at the source, rather than by some silly add-on that one has to go hunting for.

My argument against macros and add-ons stems from some of the bad luck I’ve had with installing such code on, say, a web browser, then discovering it’s either only a free trial that stops working after 30 days unless I pay for the privilege or it just doesn’t do what I want it to do – so I try to remove it and don’t succeed because while third-party operators are keen on you installing their stuff, sometimes they take umbrage at the fact you might want to uninstall. Open office, in particular – being open source – ought to recognize these pitfalls and add features like the “copy with metadata” at the source.

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