Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The trouble with .snp files.

Today I received a file with the .snp extension.

Never had one of those before... and a quick search on Google revealed all.
"The SNP file format is used by Microsoft Access to store Report Snapshots in a single file which can be viewed and printed by the Microsoft Snapshot Viewer, available as a free download from Microsoft (runs on Windows only)." See the Wiki.

As a Linux user, how do you open it?

I tried to open it with the very powerful and increasingly popular, Open Office suite. But the format wasn't recognised. Which was unusual.
I then tried to open it online with the Google Docs application and also the other popular online office suite, Zoho, but it was an unsupported format in both.

Can you convert it to a format which is easily read?

Converting it to .pdf proved unsuccessful with every one of the online format converters I tried. There are, apparently, a couple of commercial packages that will do it, but they are Windows only applications.

In fact, I couldn't find a single native application for Linux that supported the .snp format.
And then, after much research, I discovered that this was the same situation for Mac OS users, too.

What would a Windows user do?

The average user would receive the file, double click it and then wonder why it won't open.
A Windows user, even if they have Access installed, would have to download and install the MS Snapshot Viewer. This is because Access, although it can produce .snp files, cannot open .snp files. The Snapshot Viewer does exactly what it says on the tin and it cannot convert files to other formats.
This is bizarre. Why enable the creation of a file and not provide a built in solution for viewing it?

So, is there a workaround for non Windows users?

Of course there is. Basically, it involves using an emulator called Wine to run the MS Snapshot Viewer. A good tutorial can be found on the Ubuntu forums, here. This worked well for me, but toying with the command line isn't for everyone.
I don't know enough about using Wine on Mac OS and I couldn't find anything to confirm whether or not this tutorial would be of any help to Mac users.

Can the office help? Is there another way?

The office can certainly help, but it requires a little effort on their part.
An add-on is available for Access that allows the direct printing of .pdf files, so cutting out the unwanted hassle of producing .snp files and then converting them to .pdf. It can be found here.
It has also been suggested that exporting the reports as html may work, though this is unlikely to produce the desired results.

Why do I keep banging on about .pdf?

Files with the .pdf extension can be read by an extraordinary number of applications on more operating systems and devices than I care to mention. They can also be opened by most of the online office suites, which is a lifesaver for those who prefer to use one of the ever expanding number of mobile internet devices.

As an instance, and I'm using Google as an example not a rule, the file with the .pdf extension is mailed to my Gmail account. I could use then use the nearest Linux/Mac/BSD/Windows machine or net enabled hand held device to access my account and then open the file in Google Docs. Easy.

As cloud computing and open source operating systems mature and their user numbers increase, it's important to be aware of the end user's requirements and limitations.

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