One of the strange and magical traits of files saved in Microsoft Word format -- which means the vast majority of word-processing documents on PCs today -- is that they store a lot more information than you may realize: Passages you once deleted, for instance, or a record of past versions, or the names of computers and disks and folders where the file was created and saved. This data-packrat behavior is one reason Word files are so much bigger than it seems they'd need to be just to store their verbiage.
And sometimes the excess data that Word hangs onto can come back to haunt you -- or, as was the case recently, Microsoft.
It seems that when Microsoft issued its annual report this year it also provided the document in Word format, downloadable from its Web site. And if you look carefully at the extra information implanted in the document -- say, by opening it in a plain text processor -- you find something odd: The report seems to have been composed on a Macintosh computer.
(At least, there are references to an author's G3 Mac and records indicating the file was created using Word 98 for Macintosh.)
This intriguing little fact, which was discovered by Richard Smith and reported on the Macintosh news site Macintouch, is not, of course, reason for Bill Gates to go red in the face. After all, the days when Apple was viewed as Microsoft's chief competition are long gone, and the Redmond colossus is now even a (small) investor in Steve Jobs' new Apple.
Still, there's something deliciously daffy about the thought of the very ledger of Microsoft's jumbo profits being composed on a Mac -- and some kind of poetic justice in that fact coming to light thanks to the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft's own software.