Editing a file in DOCX or ODT file format

I need to edit a DOCX file that I have received, and when editing is done, I’ll need to send it to the typesetter as a DOCX file again. I do the editing in LO Writer.

The file is about 200 pages long and only has text (no images included) and lots of footnotes (usually several per page). Throughout the text, many phrases are set in italics, and these need to be kept.

Would you recommend I save the file as ODT file for editing, and before sending it save it as DOCX file again? Or would you recommend I edit the DOCX file, without first changing the format? What are the pros and cons to consider?

My Transition from MS-Office to LibreOffice

Apart from the above suggestions, both approaches you propose are not promising.

In addition:

Professional text composition with Writer

No matter which application you are using, you should always store your work in a native file format of the application.

  1. Open the received docx.
  2. Before doing anything else, store as odt.
  3. Do your work with the document.
    4a. When you are finished and want to send your work back to the co-author(s), send a docx copy or send your odt. Word can open and save odt but not as acccurately as LibreOffice can save docx.
    4b. If the co-worker is not supposed to be a co-editor, you may send PDF which is a virtual print-out to file. PDF viewers can attach comments to PDF.

The same applies when using any other software producing some native file format. Only the native file format guarantees that your work is fully preserved. If something goes wrong due to conversion issues, you still have the original with all its properties.


I wouldn’t say it so absolute. When LibreOffice opens a document from docx, pptx or xlsx, then it puts things which it cannot express in its own internal model in a so called “InteroperabilityGrabBag”. When LibreOffice saves the document back to docx, pptx or xlsx, then it looks whether there is something in this InteroperabilityGrabBag which needs to be written out. The infos in the InteroperabilityGrabBag are lost, when you save the file to ODF format.
Converting back-and-forth means that you are restricted to the intersection of the features of both formats.


Thank you very much for this info. I was not aware of any InteroperabilityGrabBag,

unless your application has something as smart as an Interoperability Grab Bag


That’s an important piece from @Regina. Yet, its existence does not automatically make using OOXML the preferred method.

The problems are: 1. The grab bag (almost) only covers the pieces unsupported by LibreOffice - and that means that every supported piece suffers the translation back and forth all the same (with the imperfect results); and 2. This mechanism is imperfect itself (e.g., we not always detect cases when document model changes invalidate pieces stored / roundtripped through the grab bag).

IMO, it doesn’t change the point. Whenever possible, one should prefer using native formats. When someone has to pass documents back and forth frequently and edit on both sides, they would use one (mutually agreed) file format anyway, and the advise would not be used regardless of the existence of the grab bag machinery.

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Usually, it is recommended to do all the editing in .odt and convert only once to .docx when document is in its final state.

In your (simple) case I think it does not really matter. Word has no notion of styles beyond paragraph styles and average Word users rarely structure their documents even with them. Consequently, it is very likely that everything is direct formatted. So converting back and forth from .docx to internal format would do no further damage to the document.

However, if your editing goes beyond reviewing text and encompasses formatting and layout, you’d be better off following a very strict procedure with styles where you replace all Word direct formatting with paragraph, character and page styles so that you can change document appearance from a unique central point, the styles.

In case you have several exchanges with the typesetter, this will pay off.


@Hrbrgr Not sure I understand what you mean. The one approach that I’m proposing is to work with the ODT file, and the other is to work with the DOCX file. Am I missing a third approach which would be better?

Thanks @ajlittoz. What I am concerned about is that by converting back and forth between ODT and DOCX some crucial formatting may be lost, such as the roman vs. italic distinction. I’m not concerned about formatting outside the main text (such as running headers or page numbers) since the typesetter will deal with this.

Thanks @Villeroy. The native file format 1 (= the format used by the author) is DOCX. So if I open and save the file as ODT, the native file format 2 (= the format used by the editor) will be ODT. Now, since only in the native file format my work is fully preserved, does that mean I should do the editing in file format 1 (in this case, DOCX) rather than file format 2 (ODT)?

Well I think @Villeroy got to the point again. But please understand, native refers to the program you are using. So if you work with LibreOffice, you should always work and save in ODT format (Writer). (the third way?)


Recommendation for clean working with LibreOffice when different Office programs are used.
Always create and save your files in LibreOffice and save them in ODF format (ODT, ODS, etc.).
Always keep these files as their source.
If you need other formats for distribution to partners, you can open an ODF file and save and distribute another format with ″ Save as… ″.
This way, you always have working files available in your system environment.
Just in case, you can also still make a backup copy of your ODT file.


Edit different file formats in LibreOffice


If you repeatedly get DOCX for changes, then you should choose the following procedure:

  • you can type the changes into your ODT file
  • you can copy text from the DOCX and paste it as “unformatted text” (Ctrl+Shift+V).

Save your ODT file again.


I started writing a book in Google Docs, making heavy use of headings to build a table of contents. At 150 pages, G docs was too slow, so I switched to Libre Office. Initially I used .odt, then switched to .docx around page 200,

So I did the majority in .docx get up to page 260 and in November the year before I had enabled “track changes” so I could have a better chance to recover from stuffups, Recently for backup purpose and Save as of the doc and chose “Accept All Changes” for the new docx going forward, keeping a frozen copy that i change the name of but don’t work on to preserve the tracked changes. At 65,000 words, 260 pages. and 74.8 MB I wanted to see if it would get smaller when I accepted all changes. Yep it went to 74.1 MB.

Shortly after doing that Libre stopped being able to open the file at all! crashing on open every time Libre v7.3.7.2 (on linux mint). Luckily I was able to boot into MX Linux on a spare partiton, which had Libre Writer 6 I think - it was able to open the half dead .docx file! So I saved out two copies: Book-RESCUED.docx and Book-RESCUED.odt

From here I think I willl finished the book off using ODT format! If you think about it, makes sense to use the native format.

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