Monday, December 18, 2006

Save or Export?

Today's challenge to programmers is to explain to me exactly what the difference is between saving a file and exporting a file. I used to believe the following definition:
  • Save : Save to a file type that you might want to transport the data around in. For example, a spreadsheet application saving in Excel or OpenDocument Spreadsheet format.

  • Export : Save to a file type useful for displaying the data, or for processing. For example, a spreadsheet application saving in HTML, PDF or CSV format.

This always made sense to me, the formats were always where I instinctively expected them to be. Then today I went to save a spreadsheet to CSV format in OpenOffice Calc. I went to the export menu and no CSV was there, it was in the normal save list. This isn't a problem really, CSV was designed to store this type of data so it's up for interpretation where to put the option to save to that format. One thing I did notice during this however was that you could export to XHTML or save to HTML. Considering they are effectively the same (*), how can they split them like that? Is there some deeper underlying truth I've missed about how the two are mostly used or something?

(*) XHTML is basically just slightly stricter HTML that doesn't let you ignore the standard and still have it work, how it should have been in the first place really.

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