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How do I share documents between OpenOffice Writer and Microsoft Word?


I took my laptop in to be repaired and the technician added a program that he said that was as good as Microsoft Word or better: Writer. He suggested I keep it on and try it since it was free and if I did not like it, he would take it off. One problem that I have with this program is that my club members are unable to open my documents to them now. I think he should take this program off and return my Microsoft word so that I can use it. What do you think?

I think you need to give OpenOffice Writer a little bit more of a chance.

There may well be reasons to revert to Microsoft Word, but exchanging documents with Microsoft Word users isn’t one of them. You’re probably just missing a simple step.

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OpenOffice is a free, open-source set of software that includes equivalents for not only Microsoft Word, but Excel, PowerPoint, and more. It’s not perfect but it’s actually very good, and it’s a very reasonable alternative for many uses.

“I think you need to give OpenOffice Writer a little bit more of a chance.”

OpenOffice Writer, the Microsoft Word equivalent, saves its documents in “Open Document Text” or “.odt” format. In fact, if you do a File, Save As… you’ll see:

Open Office Writer's File-SaveAs Dialog

As you can see, the “Save As Type” is listed.

However, if you click on the down arrow and drop-down the list, you’ll see there are many other alternatives:

Open Office Writer's File-SaveAs Dialog with alternative formats

You can see I’ve circled one that you’ll probably find interesting: “Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc)”.

You can also make this the default save type if you like. In Writer, click on Tools, Options, expand the Load/Save branch, and click on General. You should be looking at something like this:

Open Office Writer Load/Save Options

Under “Always save as” you’ll find pretty much the same list. You can change that to “Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP (.doc)” (you may have to scroll up in the list to find it) and now you’ll save your documents in Microsoft Word  format by default.

So the short answer is that as long as you save your documents in Microsoft Word format you should be able to exchange them with others without much trouble.

Play with Open Office some. I think you’ll find it’s a reasonable alternative, and of course, you certainly can’t beat the price.

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12 comments on “How do I share documents between OpenOffice Writer and Microsoft Word?”

  1. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of Word, I have yet to find anything lacking in’s software. Perhaps I simply don’t ask a word processor to do anything more than be a word processor? Nor do I need animated text.
    In any case, we suggest it to just about every person whose system we clean up, especially those who have to reinstall MS-Office due to a virus/trojan/whatever and it turns out that the copy they had was “borrowed” from a friend. (Yes, we’ll reinstall it if you give us original media and a product key.)

  2. I wouldn’t make a happy word user use OpenOffice, because once someone is familiar with one program it can be difficult to adjust to another, but that said, OpenOffice is a nice alternative to Word for those who don’t already have it and don’t want to buy it.

    It is also worth pointing out that if it is just one person who gets a lot of OpenOffice documents and wants to open them in Word, Microsoft have released a plug-in certainly for Office 2007, possibly even Office 2002/2003 that allows ODF import (the OpenDocument Format which is the default of OpenOffice)

  3. Great, and here we go – opensource stuff…
    I certainly didn’t know about OpenOffice Writer and am very pleased to hear of its existance.
    I leaned towards redHat when it first arrived on the scene, but being an oldie, and not particularly computer savvy, I decided against install on the grounds that I couldn’t possibly understand what I was supposed to do…
    Things of course have moved, and we’re now getting quite a surge of opensource stuff – including Joomla, and I think it’s great…
    Ms have had their pound of flesh – in fact I believe their pound has turned out to be measured in tonnage. Thank you Ms, but it’s time to move on and allow some of the newer talents to bring forth their input to the world of computing.
    We will all be better for it…

    And by the way, if the gent IT man who installed after fixing a virus on this chaps machine the OpenOffice Writer – he actually done the user a favour, as the Word prog was probably not registered anyway…!
    and without a desktop prog, he would have been buggered…

    opensource forever

  4. Well I hack for the sake of protecting my own website. And I use RedHat 9 and it comes with OpenOffice.Org. And like Leo said you have to give it a chance. Apart from it being free, it is compatible with any form of office software available and it doesnt have all the security issues that MS Office does. Also did i mention the fact that it is opensource and free. That in its self makes it better because it is so compatible and free. You don’t always have to register it or purchase it everytime you wipe your system and also you dont always have to purchase anything for the latest version. You just download it. And to top it all off did i mention that its free?

  5. I’ve changed my default to word 97/2000 xp and the document is fine until you close out and need to go back into that document, that’s when you will discover that the formatting is off and the opendocument will not let you correct the document. You must delete it that file name and retype that document in order to get the formatting right. It looks fine on the screen until you print it or close out and go back into it.

  6. This is great information. The only reason I need to save documents in Word is because friends are unable to open Writer. That’s the only reason I need this option. Thanks for your help.

  7. I installed OpenOffice on my computer today. I previously had MSWord which came on the computer as a trial. It has expired. How do I open my MSWord files using OpenOffice? Help!!!!

    Pretty much the same way you could in word – File menu, Open option.


  8. This may be totally unrelated, but this thread seemed the best place to ask it.
    I have been experimenting with various text file formats, and recently discovered something odd. I have known for some time, that the same text in different formats created different sized files.
    .RTF seems to be the largest, followed closely by .DOC
    Until recently, I thought .TXT was the smallest possible – after all, it’s only storing the text right? No formatting, no font, etc etc
    But no, .ODT seems consistantly smaller – less than half the size, on average, of the same text in .TXT and it keeps the formatting!
    Is it doing something odd? Compressing the file, perhaps?

    Some file formats are indeed compressed. I don’t know specifically about .odt, though it wouldn’t surprise me. I know that .docx is actully a zip file and thus compressed.


  9. @Ethel
    Read the Ask a Question page and you’ll see where to post an actual question, the things you need to provide, and get an idea of how long Leo might be in answering.
    Ask a Question Page

    Online tech support can, really, only do so much. If the document is very important you should immediately contact a qualified local computer technician to help you. Documents can often be retrieved, unless you do something on your computer to overwrite them.

  10. You say, “as long as you save your documents in Microsoft Word format you should be able to exchange them with others.” I sent out chapters written in OO for friends to proof-read, they marked them up and returned them but their proofing marks had disappeared. We tried back and forth: my saving as .rtf and sending; my saving as .docx and sending; my saving as .doc and sending. The only thing that seemed to work was both sides staying in WordPad (.rtf); but then somebody with MSOfficeSuite said she couldn’t find any WordPad on her computer. I feel I have tried everything in your article already, but obviously I’m just doing something wrong–not too tech savvy here–and just bothering friends. Any advice?

    • By “proofing marks” do you mean that the revision feature in Word was turned on? Don’t really have a good answer for cross compatibility on that one. I’d be tempted to not use the feature and mark changes with text inserted into the document somehow.


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