LibreOffice Writer Compatibility with MS-Word

LibreOffice has a mixed compatibility reputation with MS Office files. My experience is as long as the document is uncomplicated then compatibility is fine. Add any degree of complexity and compatibility deteriorates.

I have several complex documents created many years ago with MS Word 97. As I no longer use Windows in any meaningful manner and do not have a more recent version of Word, I maintain an NT4 virtual machine (VM) to retain access to those files. The NT4 VM is a physical-to-virtual (P2V) project from many years ago.

I would not mind converting the documents to ODT format.

The files are designed with templates and style tags. Paragraph and character style tags are used. Most of the files contain a table of contents, end notes, footers, headers, and bibliographies.

Every so often I test LibreOffice compatibility. The tests always fail. Failure examples include:

  • The table of contents imports but the respective hyperlinks are lost.
  • Some styles are imported as Bolded and Hot Pink.
  • Headers and footers look awkward.
  • Text that is centered vertically in the page is moved to the top of the page.
  • Exact page-for-page duplication never succeeds.

Even when saving the files from Word 97 as RTF, LibreOffice fails to open the RTF files in a reliable manner. RTF is a text based markup language. Seems that with RTF there should be no compatibility issues or guessing.

I accept that to create vendor lock-in the Microsoft folks likely through the years intentionally have not followed standards or their own file formats. Compatibility is not exactly in their best interests. Conversely, I accept that file format compatibility is a difficult problem to resolve even when following standards.

I could hunt for a nominally newer version of MS Word and test compatibility by using that newer version to open the older Word 97 files and exporting in other formats. Considering the Microsoft track record I am not enthused about that option.

After all these years I am resigned that converting the documents to ODT format would require serious manual effort. Likely too I would lose exact page-for-page duplication.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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