Last night I started converting the essays I wrote in high school from the old Microsoft Word .doc format to Markdown, so they will be readable as long as plain text files are readable. My process is simple:

  1. Open the Word .doc in LibreOffice.
  2. Copy the text and paste it into Ulysses
  3. Replace double-spaces after periods with single spaces.
  4. Fix all the paragraph breaks, using the version opened in LibreOffice as a guide.
  5. Fix all the italics that were dropped in the copy/paste operation, again using the version opened in LibreOffice as a guide.
  6. Create a title and a brief heading (with the document date and the subject I wrote it for, if they are in there) in Ulysses.
  7. Run a spell-check in Ulysses.
  8. Export the document from Ulysses to a Markdown file.
  9. Close and delete the Word .doc version.

Strangely, many of my essays have no titles. LibreOffice displays a blank page and some random junk at the top of every file. This leads me to believe that my paper headings—which were required, because I wrote them for school—have been lost in file format translation somewhere. I have been adding titles to my old papers, which is challenging sometimes because I have no idea why I wrote some of them.

I found some interesting files in my archive that are actually worth preserving: humorous essays from my freshman year; serious papers about nuclear power and Chernobyl; and brief biographies I wrote of my father and grandfather, which are now treasures to me because they died years ago. I also found a some topical essays full of ten-dollar words and purple prose that I no doubt learned how to write by reading syndicated newspaper columnists every day. The teachers who read them must have thought I was precocious and possibly insane.

Overall, converting these files has been a rewarding diversion from my normal computing tasks. Unfortunately, between high school and college essays, I have hundreds of these Word .docs to convert, so I will be at it for a long time.