OpenOffice – Autosaving to Microsoft Formats

Anyone who follows this blog regularly knows I’m a huge pusher of open source software (especially free, open source software).  Recently, I had to set up a neighbor with OpenOffice because they were doing their resume in Microsoft Works and they had received a request for their resume to be in the Microsoft Word format (.doc).

Before I go any further, if you don’t know what OpenOffice is, you should definitely check it out.  It is a fully functional office software suite that can (for the most part) completely replace Microsoft Office on your computer.  If you don’t have Microsoft Office on your computer, OpenOffice will work about 98% of the time for most people’s needs.  If you don’t want to install software on your computer at all, you can look at Google Docs.  It should be noted that you will need Java to run OpenOffice, if you’re browsing the internet regularly there is a good chance you already have Java installed.  

Setting OpenOffice to Save Microsoft Formats

Whenever I tell someone about OpenOffice and/or set it up for them to use on their computer I always do one thing for them.  I set OpenOffice to automatically save in the Microsoft Office formats (.doc, .xls, and .ppt).  Below are the steps you can take to set this up yourself.

To begin, you’ll need to open OpenOffice’s word processor.  Your screen should have a window that looks very similar to this:

Empty OpenOffice Document

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  1. Click on Tools in the menu bar and then select Options
  2. Step 02 - Screenshot-Untitled 1 - Writer

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  3. Once the options dialog has come up, select the “General” options under the “Load/Save” options list
  4. Step 03 - Screenshot-Options - Load-Save - General

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  5. Towards the bottom, you’ll see a section for “Default file format and ODF settings” under this you will see two drop down boxes; one labeled “Document type” and the other, directly to the right labeled “Always save as”.  This is what we’re going to change.  Since we were in the word processor, the “Text Document” should already be selected under “Document type” and the “Always save as” will be set to “ODF Text Document”.  We will change “ODF Text Document” to “Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP”
  6. Step 04 - Screenshot-Options - Load-Save - General

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  7. Once that’s done, we’ll change the “Document type” to “Spreadsheet”
  8. Click to Enlarge

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  9. Once the document type is set to “Spreadsheet” we can change the “Always save as” dropdown to “Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP”
  10. Click to Enlarge

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  11. Finally repeat steps 4 & 5 but change “Document type” to “Presentation” and “Always save as” to “Microsoft Powerpoint 97/2000/XP”
  12. Click to Enlarge

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  13. Once all 3 file types have been changed to save as the Microsoft formats, you can click “Ok” at the bottom of the dialog.

There you go.  All your files will save in their Microsoft Office file format equivalent.

Personal Thoughts on File Formats

While performing these steps will in fact allow you use OpenOffice in a more Office compatible way, I want to note that I feel this is the wrong approach.  My personal opinion on this matter is that we should be encouraging the acceptance and use of more open standards.  The file format used by default in OpenOffice is the “Open Document Format” (wikipedia link).  This format is open sourced which means that it can be utilized by anyone willing to implement it into their software.

I think that pushing for people to use open file formats, in the long run, will make things easier since making things compatible would be easier.

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