Beware the .EXE — Post a PDF Please

Following a recommendation from Dennis Kennedy, I went to the very nice site for Litigation Support Department Operations Manual. While the offering there looks extremely interesting, and I want to read it, I didn’t download it — because it’s an executable file, (the name ends in .exe).

At the risk of coming off as a jerk, or worse, starting a ‘my platform is better than your platform’ type of flame war, I offer my two cents:

If you are going to provide something to your clients (or prospective clients) via the Net, please, please, please don’t make it a Windows executable file.

First, I accessed the site via my Mac. I can’t run a Windows executable file. Although lawyers are overwhelmingly Windows users (like the rest of the planet), they’re not *all* Windows users. I use and prefer Macs (although I am fastened to the PC ball & chain at the office).

Second, and more importantly, even if I were running Windows, I still wouldn’t download that file. On my ‘federal’ PC, I can’t run random executable files that I download off the interweb. The network admin won’t let me. This is a wise policy. (I don’t even like to exchange MS Office documents with outside counsel, and metadata is just one of the reasons.) Executable files are programs that you run on your computer, and even if they are from a trusted source, they can cause real trouble.

If you are your own admin, think twice (thrice!) before taking the bait and running unknown programs — even after you have run a virus scan on it. If you have a network admin that has the network set up so that users CAN download and run .exe files, walk to whatever space you confine him in and smack him upside the head. It’s 2005! You just can’t do that stuff anymore.

Finally, a pitch. If you want to have every person with computer access to be able to access your document, make it a PDF. If you want your manual to trigger spreadsheets, do calculations, hyperlink sources — PDF can do it. It is a format that presents a much lower barrier to use, and considerably enhances the security of your offering. I’d love to talk to the folks who created the Litigation Support Manual, and see if we could come up with a way that I could really use their product.

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About the Author: David Fishel

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