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Myriad Word programs - what's the standard?

  1. Feb 1, 2017 #1


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    Nothing like sending a doc to a client only to have them see a bunch of gobbledygook.

    I am using OpenOffice Writer, my client seems to be using some form of MS Word.

    In addition to .odt, Open Office will save in various flavours of Word:
    • MS97/2000/XP (.doc)
    • MS95 (.doc)
    • Word 6.0 (.doc)
    (I have never had a clue which is the most modern/standard one.)

    He is sending me docs with a .docx extension, which I can open in OpenOffice, but will not allow me to resave as .docx. So we have no way of passing a compatible doc format back and forth.

    I could convert it to PDF, but that's inconvenent for him.

    In this, the 21st century, must I really find and install some other third party tool just to share documents with someone?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2017 #2


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    This is a known problem. Basically don't share docs between MS-Word and anything else as one or the other editor will break the internal structure forcing you to rewrite your document from scratch or at least do a lot of hacking to get it back the way you want it. (I think it has to do with each editor using its own macro features which are basically different)

    I think the docx is the XML version of the document popular on the MacOS version of MS-Word docs. It too isn't ready to interoperate between vendor writers and MS-Word. Here's a discussion on docx vs doc debate:



    My preferred writer is LibreOfice which is a spinoff of OpenOffice but is actively being maintained:



    Then there's rtf: Its an older standard but preserves text styles but you lose so much of the fancier features that its often not worth it except for small documents.

    Another one is markdown, but it too doesn't compare the MS-Word format and text capabilities.

    I like the PDF approach though where you copy the clients changes back to your document and resend. Markdown might be a good choice too although its very web oriented and its hard to customize the document format to what you may want. Also while editing a document you cant see any embedded images only on preview and you don't get the cool table of contents generators either.
  4. Feb 1, 2017 #3


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  5. Feb 1, 2017 #4
  6. Feb 1, 2017 #5


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    The word processors by themselves are comaprable but when you exchange documents between them things go very wrong very fast. It usually has something to do with supported fonts, supported macros and other internal things that get remapped and the mapping isn't a round trip affair.

    I ran into this once while writing a design spec in OpenOffice and sending it out for review. Other folks used ms-word, marked up sections and sent it back. I couldn't get the documents to reconcile and basically chapter headings got messed up like having two chapter 3 headings when it should have been 3 then 4 and after spending hours trying to fix it I gave up and rewrote it from scratch. I did try copying a section over only to find the breakage came with it and broke my new document too.
  7. Feb 1, 2017 #6


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    Dave; save as MS97/2000/XP. Your client with a newer version of Word will be able to read it.
  8. Feb 1, 2017 #7


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    Microsoft intentionally changes their formats on a regular basis in order to force you to upgrade your software. The obvious answer to this ridiculous practice is to stop buying and using their software!
  9. Feb 1, 2017 #8


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    Absolutely. Which is why I'm using OpenOffice.

    Not about to tell my client what he should use though.
  10. Feb 1, 2017 #9


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  11. Feb 1, 2017 #10


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    May I interest in a low cost subscription to LibreOffice...
  12. Feb 1, 2017 #11
    I don't know if it's still the case, but back when I was a full-time technical writer & also book editor, and had to work with Word fairly often, everyone in the corporate world I worked with used the latest version, faithfully rolled out by their IT departments; and still there were frequently problems with documents blowing up - most often when I received them from clients or had to pass them from one client to another.

    The problem typically wouldn't be so much with installed fonts, nor even with macros; mostly it was that some corporate folks were never taught (or didn't remember) how to use Word the way it was intended, e.g. styles rather than ad hoc formatting. Plus people would do extremely strange things with margins, headers/footers etc., making the document excessively fragile & prone to imploding. And Word kept getting more bloated, making it harder for ordinary corporate persons to learn & use. Starting with Office 2010 (Windows) and 2011 (Mac), usability seemed to get somewhat better . . . except for the massive influx of grotesque built-in styles. But I don't know how it is these days .

    By the way I wouldn't knock the .docx format just because Microsoft was involved in developing the standard. It has a lot of features and many office suites besides Microsoft use it as well. Before I got out of tech writing, one of my clients had to scramble on an XML writing/delivery project, and since there wasn't time to evaluate dedicated XML editors, I was able to develop a workflow using Word 2010 as the XML editor. Not the best, but not the worst either. Couldn't have done that with a .doc or RTF format. I vaguely remember there were other advantages as well, but I can't recall the specifics. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Open_XML
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  13. Feb 2, 2017 #12


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    Yes. I can't count how many large documents (100-400 pages) would get utterly confused by margins and have to be stripped out and reformatted from the top.

    I blame them for not making it easier to create documents correctly.
  14. Feb 2, 2017 #13
    My preference has been not to let documents get that big anyway; 100 pages would be pushing it. A document that big in pretty much any word processor is going to start getting balky and slow. Plus having docs for sections or chapters allowed splitting up the work more easily. Plus if a doc does blow up, assuming backups have been done frequently, as they should be, it's a lot easier to recover from losing a small doc than a huge one.

    I know many people hate Word, and I'm not much of a Microsoft fan in general, myself; but I've never seen a word processor that didn't have shortcomings of one kind or another. In my day I have used just about every such application for Word and Mac, and for general word processing (though not LibreOffice); Word was by no means the worst and could easily have been called the best or at least one of the fullest-featured. The advantage of Open Office was more to do with price than anything else. These days I don't have clients anymore, so rather than Word I frequently use much lighter-weight applications; but I'm pretty sure that if I had to bring clients into a workflow involving those applications, problems would find a way to show up there too.

    I should qualify the above to say that being a technical writer, I spent far more time than many people would have on learning the features of Word in its various versions; I bought and read many third-party manuals & did a lot of VBA, macro, and template development as well. If I had had to jump in cold to Word and not be able to learn how to use it, it might have been different.
  15. Feb 3, 2017 #14


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    This is what we usually do, save as Word97-2003, we've always been able to assume this is a "standard" format anyone can read.
  16. Feb 3, 2017 #15
    How is this different from every other software/OS/hardware maker on the planet? Even Linux, which is free, constantly upgrades; even small freeware and shareware shops constantly upgrade. I agree the net result is extremely frustrating, in fact infuriating; but we are victims of our own appetite for better performance, more features, etc.

    Personally, what I really hate are the OS upgrades; and especially for Mac. Those really do seem designed to force continued purchasing of Apple hardware, as after a certain point the shiny iMac or iPad or whatever that you bought only a few scant years ago, and which still runs fine, won't run the latest OS that Apple insists on forcing down your throat. If you ever read up on the respective cultures of working at either Apple or Microsoft, you'll discover that Microsoft is by many accounts a far nicer company to work for than Apple - less enforced brainwashing, less secrecy.
  17. Feb 3, 2017 #16
    Have you tried simply reinstalling the latest OpenOffice? (or LibreOffice, which is the essentially the same thing with a different license.) Mine allows me to export to docx, I didn't do anything special.

    Attached Files:

  18. Feb 5, 2017 #17

    jim hardy

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    I still miss WordPerfect.
  19. Feb 6, 2017 #18
    I quite like LibreOffice. I would continue to save as a .doc, and ask your friend to also save as .doc (rather than .docx) before sending the file back to you.
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