[Tutorial] Differences between MS Word (eg .doc and .docx) and LO files (eg .odt)

asked 2017-03-27 16:04:14 +0200

JohnHa gravatar image

Note: This post is based on AOO but 99% should be the same for LO

LO Writer, AOO Writer and MS Word (and other word processing programs) are all similar, but none are identical. If you open a Writer .odt file in Word, or a Word .doc, .rtf or .docx file in Writer, you will often notice differences.

The programs do many of the same things, including text, styles, tables, images, bold, italics, headings, page number, headers, footers etc. However, Writer does some things which Word does not do; and Word does some things which Writer does not do. Each program can store its own data in its own file, but obviously cannot store this extra data in the other program's file as there is nowhere for it to go and/or nothing in the other program to see it.

An example: Writer and Word are based on different schools of typography which can be slightly confusing. Word considers the page header/footer areas to be part of "print matter" while Writer considers them to be "marginalia". You may need to change the top and/or bottom margin widths by the height of 'one line + header/footer spacing' if you have page headers/footers and you are trying to replicate a .doc layout in a .odt file.

When you open a .doc. .docx or .rtf file, what you see may not be exactly how the author wrote it - formatting in particular is often changed. .rtf files are particularly limited in what they can store and suffer most changes or deletions. .txt files can store only the text characters - they cannot store any formatting or font information.

When using Writer you are strongly encouraged always to save all documents as .odt files.

That way you know that all your document and formatting will be saved. If someone irrationally asks you to send them a .doc file, question the request, and offer to send them a .odt file instead as all versions of Microsoft Office later than 2007 claim to be able both to read and to write .odt files. If MS Word corrupts the .odt file, get the recipient to complain to Microsoft. If the requester insists on a .doc file, then create a .doc file from the .odt file, and delete the .doc after sending it.

Always work in, and save all documents as, .odt files.

Don't forget that Google Docs uses .odt files and Microsoft is now feeling a lot of pressure from the .odt format.

If you save your work as any other file other than a .odt file (eg .doc, .rtf etc) you are almost certain to lose something. In general, it is the more complex things which get lost or mangled, such as Edit > Changes, bullet shapes, colours etc.

1. Bullets, list items and numbered items in .doc files often display incorrectly

Bullets, list items and numbered items in MS Word .doc files often display incorrectly when the file is opened with Writer ... (more)

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Comments

There seems to be one shortcoming with the .odt format. I just asked the following question: How would I search for text across a directory of documents?

context15 gravatar imagecontext15 ( 2017-03-29 17:37:40 +0200 )edit

In Windows Start > type the word in the search box > press enter > choose More options > sort by directory. Or use zipgrep to search the .odt files.

JohnHa gravatar imageJohnHa ( 2017-04-06 00:21:47 +0200 )edit

Good information about saving to ODT to preserve formatting. Writing from LO (5x,6x) to docx will not overcome incompatibilities (page break handling, cell addressing differences). Best solution is to upload the doc to Google Drive, open it there and File:Download as in the new format. Trying to pressure a colleague to save/read in a novel format could hamper future communication and will most likely still not get you or them a functional document.

imbroglioj gravatar imageimbroglioj ( 2019-04-19 18:59:40 +0200 )edit