FORMATS FOR ELECTRONIC RECORDS

By June 21, 2015

Electronic records can be created in a range of different formats. The simplest and perhaps most common form are data sets contained in databases (these are sometimes referred to as data files). Otherwise, the majority of electronic records are still simple text-based records or relatively uncomplicated spreadsheets. However, as software applications become more advanced, the documents created will become more sophisticated. Broadly speaking, electronic record format types include the following.
• Data sets: These are groups of related electronic records organised and treated as a unit. Data sets are created, managed and used in the context of a database. For example, a data set could contain annual census information for a region.
• Text-based documents: These are primarily basic word-processed documents, with words only and few or no graphic images. However, it is already common for a single word-processed document to include embedded elements created by other software applications. For instance a spreadsheet from Microsoft Excel could be imported into a report being created using Microsoft Word. In addition, the word-processed report may include a chart created using Microsoft PowerPoint.
• Multi-dimensional documents: Some forms of electronic record can be represented in more than one way on the screen and on the printed page. A spreadsheet can be represented as a set of figures and formulae or as the result of the calculations. Both representations are part of the record, although it may not always be necessary to retain both of them. Similarly, a presentation may consist of a set of prepared slides and notes displayed and used in different ways.
• Multi-media documents: Such documents are composed of a number of different elements, which interact together to display their full meaning. They include graphical, moving image, sound and text documents, which may appear differently at different times in response to variations in user interaction.
There is an increasing trend for documents to include elements in several media. For instance, documents may be composed of separate reusable components that can be stored in different parts of a network, brought together as a ‘virtual’ document and presented in different forms for different uses. Moreover, note and voice annotations can be added to text-based documents; digital sound and video can be added to presentations; 3-D modelling and simulation can be added to analytical documents.
Activity 6
Find an example of a data set, text-based document, multi-dimensional document and multi-media document created by your organisation. (Note: it may not be possible to locate an example of each type.) What software application was used to create each one? What business function does it support? Why was this type of format considered most appropriate for the purpose?