A method and apparatus for determining an optimal multistage transformation from a first document format to a second document format via multiple format type transformation applications. Each document format type within a data processing system is identified and associated with a node within a format type network. An expenditure cost associated with each format type transformation application, such as time cost or information loss cost, is identified and associated with a link between two associated nodes in the format type network. An optimal path from a first node within the format type network to a second node is then calculated by means of links having minimal expenditure cost associated therewith. In one depicted embodiment of the present invention an optimal path from a selected node to all other nodes within the format type network is calculated and utilized for all future desired transformations.
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