Short study: comparison of available textual data exchange formats for distance learning

The study consisted in identification available formats for delivery of textual information (at least 13 different formats has been identified and analyzed). The formats included PC-based formats such as MS Word, HTML, RTF, cross-platform formats such as Adobe PDF, specific formats of the handheld and palmheld computers (but available with readers for PC) such as Aportis DOC, iSILO, TCR and TomeRaider, as well as formats of electronic books (Rocket E-book). The formats has been compared as of compression degree (usability for transferring large volumes of information over narrow-band connection) and support of Cyrillic alphabet. Best formats for graphic containing and pure textual formats have been selected (see comparison table).

Comparison of the compression provided by several texts reading programs. Text source was file of about 300 pages (101397 words).

 

File type

Size (Kb)

Graphics inclusion?

Allow Cyrrilic letters

OS

RTF

4,381

Yes

+

Any

MS Word 2.0

2,370

Yes

+

Windows

MS Word 97

1,438

Yes

+

Windows

Adobe Acrobat

801

Yes

+/-

Any

MS Word 97/ text only

770

No

+

Windows

HTML

687

Yes

+

Any

RTF/ text only

611

No

+

Any

MS Word 2.0/ text only

602

No

+

Windows

HTML/ text only

593

No

+

Any

Text

564

No

+

Any

Adobe Acrobat/ text only

487

No

+/-

Any

MS Reader

385

Yes

+

Windows, Windows CE

MobiPocket

384

Yes

+

Windows, Palm, EPOC, Windows CE

Rocket E-Book

328

Yes

+/-

Windows, Rocket

Aportis DOC

326

No

+

Palm, EPOC*, Windows**

TealDoc

325

No

+

Palm, Windows**

TomeRaider

303

No

+

Windows, Palm, EPOC

Rocket E-Book/text only

290

No

+/-

Windows, Rocket

MS Reader/ text only

289

No

-

Windows, Windows CE

TCR

280

No

+

EPOC, SIBO

ISilo

268

No

?

Palm

* - with help of the program E-Book

** - with help of the program BigDoc

Tome Raider allowed fast search of the database with good compression properties. Conversion has created 9.5 Mb file of MESH termini which was compressed by TomeRider to the 4.2 Mb size (47% original size). What is also important that this format is compatible with many handheld and palmheld platforms (EPOC, Palm, PocketPC), not only with Windows. As is stated at the TomeRaider Web-site (http://www.tomeraider.com), TomeRaider is a fast, flexible and powerful cross-platform reference viewer giving instant and free access to hundreds of megabytes of encyclopedias, dictionaries, guides, religious works, philosophical texts, e-texts and novels in TomeRaider format. TomeRaider is combining the best elements of flat text documents with features of a database such as indexing, fast navigation and searching. In addition compression, rich-text formatting, bookmarks and hyperlinks enhance the TomeRaider further.

The best format for deployment of documents with complex formatting and pictures has been judged to be Adobe PDF. Despite occasional problems with cyrillic letters it preserves content well, free of destructive macros (unlike Microsoft Word) and more compressed than MS Word with higher number of available plattforms.

The best format for deployment loose-formatted documents (basically simple HTML-based) with pictures has been judged to be Open E-book standard exemplified in the study by MobiPocket. It provides (automatically) most compressed file with easy viewing in almost all widely used in Russia plattforms (MS Windows, MS Windows CE and Pocket PC, Palm OS and EPOC). In the same time in a separate experiments MobiPublisher prepared book has been 30% larger than Adobe PDF processed for Web viewing by "Web Perfect PDF" plug in. Unfortunately when viewing resulting PDF file of EPOC platform Cyrillic letters has been deleted with resulting unreadable text (though on MS Windows machine viewing has been correct). The MobiPocket format allowed viewing this text without problems.

Problems with viewing MobiPocket files on Pocket PC handhelds could be relatively easily solved.

The results of the study showed several best formats

Multiplatform

EPOC PDA (transfer to MS Windows with extraction)

Palm OS PDA

The results show that for distance learning purposes it is necessary to select multiplatform formats with adoption of three best formats for different text types.