Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Using OpenOffice files in Word

Some libraries only support more
traditional formats
Last weekend I was in my local library and overheard a young boy discuss a problem with the two librarians (it's a small library).

His ICT homework was stored on a flash drive and he could not open the files to print them.

The information workers were nonplussed and assumed that he could not download the files from his drive. Against by better judgement I became involved.

The problem was that his files were in OpenOffice format and the library computers were running a fairly old version of Word on Windows XP. Whatever version it was, it could not read the OpenOffice files in any meaningful way. We tried all the text encoding options but it just wasn't happening.

I suggested that we search online for a website that could convert OpenOffice documents to Word format. The first link led us to a specific page on online-convert.com that allowed us to upload the two files and, within seconds, download Word-compatible versions.

These appeared to be perfect and the young man's homework assignment was complete, assuming he managed to print them.

Probably the ideal solution, when using OpenOffice, is to save files in native (OpenOffice) format and export copies to a widely-compatible format. I've always found Rich Text Format (RTF) to work well*.

OpenOffice also supports the format used by Word, so one could save straight to Word format if necessary. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I've read that uploading files to Google Drive is also a useful way to convert them. Nothing is quite as private or secure as using your own computer for the conversion, though.

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* I was first taught about the wonders of RTF when studying at the London College of Printing and Distributive Trades (LCP for short, and now called the London College of Communication).

This was in the days before digital printing was anywhere close to being a reality. In my first proper job we used to send large sheets of film off to the printers by courier. When things started to turn digital we switched to sending out SyQuest cartridges instead.

We were pretty advanced compared to some publishing companies in London at the time.