Improving Compatibility with Microsoft Office

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As much as we would all like to pretend Microsoft Office doesn’t exist, it is a fact of life that at some point, everyone will have to exchange documents with Microsoft Office users. While NeoOffice is quite good at reading and writing Microsoft Office documents, it's not perfect (in large part because, unlike the native file formats of NeoOffice, the Office file formats are not publicly or freely available nor stable, so import and export of the formats has to be reverse-engineered over and over again). This page presents a number of tips or "best practices" to use to ensure better compatibility with Microsoft Office formats.

  • As a first step, always ask your collaborator(s) or recipient(s) if they can handle the OpenDocument or "OpenOffice.org" formats. It's not unheard of for two people using NeoOffice or OpenOffice.org to exchange documents using the imperfect MS Office formats because neither bothered to ask what formats the other could handle!
  • If the recipient doesn't need to edit the document, saving as a PDF (via either supported NeoOffice method) will preserve formatting, fonts, and layout and be compatible with nearly every computer on the planet.
  • Use common (MS Office) fonts.
    Note, however, that the versions of the MS Office fonts that ship with Mac OS X (and with Office 2004) are approaching 10 years old and do not support Unicode or most non-Roman, non-CJK scripts, unlike the versions of these fonts shipped with Windows or the most recent version of Office:Mac (Office 2008; however, RTL support is still absent from these fonts). If you work in non-Roman or non-CJK scripts, choose an appropriate free and open font set from our Alternative Fonts list and suggest your collaborator(s) do the same.
  • Set up defaults using styles and templates, e.g. a "Word Collaboration" template that contains all the font settings, styles, and so forth so you don't forget some setting in any particular document.
  • When writing Greek text, follow the instructions here if you exchange with Word 2004 users.
  • When you use NeoOffice to create a document intended for MS Office users, for best results proceed as follows:
    Create your document in NeoOffice's native format, i.e. .odt, and always save all the changes you make to the document while using that format. It's only when your document is ready that you should use Save As… to save it in the MS Office format, i.e. .doc.
    In this way you will avoid most of the problems which appear when the users of MS Office open, read and edit the document.
  • Save using the Word/Excel/PowerPoint 97/2000/XP document format for widest and best compatibility; translators for older and newer formats are not as robust, and older formats do not support all the document features of the 97/2000/XP format.
  • Remember to actually save the document in the relevant MS Office format and to use the correct extension.
    If you're exchanging documents with collaborators using Word 2001 or older on the classic Mac OS or in Classic under Mac OS X, you'll need to ensure the documents have the correct type and creator code in order for those applications to open the files. Add Microsoft HFS Codes is one way of solving this problem.

Add other tips, and we'll eventually organize this a little more logically

[edit] See also


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