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Easing Compatibility Between OpenOffice, MS Office 186

Jane Walker writes "An office suite expert describes how to format documents in OpenOffice and Microsoft office using program features that will make ease compatibility headaches." From the article: "No two office suites are alike, and the more manual, highly controlled items you have in your document, the more likely the formatting will get messy when you go from one office suite to another. But if you use the formatting capabilities to indent and add spacing--well, that's more like just labeling a box Kitchen and putting the box somewhere that makes sense. The formatting tips in this article will also give you more professional-looking documents that are easier to update when the content or formatting rules change."
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Easing Compatibility Between OpenOffice, MS Office

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  • yes, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2.earthshod@co@uk> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:56AM (#15251834)
    Too many people think it's OK just to use rows of spaces for formatting.

    The worst example of this I ever saw was a document where the page numbers were typed, by hand, aligned using spaces, within the page themselves {not in the footer}; and there were no page breaks, just loads of hard returns. I was tasked with fixing a minor spelling mistake. This should have been an easy job; but the correctly-spelt word was one letter longer, which caused the line to wrap -- thus making an utter arse of the formatting.

    I fixed it, but I got a bollocking for taking too long. I suppose I would have got just as big a bollocking for messing up the formatting.

    I think a great service would be done if word processing software could detect attempts at such manual formatting, warn the user there is a better way to do it; and then do it properly, automagically. It can't be that hard. I'll concede that spaces and hard returns do have a place, but that place is far away from proportionally-spaced fonts.

    Oh yes, one more thing. Bring back Wordstar/Protext-style rulers which can be inserted into the document anywhere, not just one ruler at the top of the screen which changes as you move from one paragraph to another. It's as confusing as fuck and it's probably half the reason why people use spaces for formatting in the first place.
  • Re:Cripes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:57AM (#15251836) Homepage Journal
    . Is it the case that the more correct you are about word processor usage, the closer you get to HTML/CSS? Should we just skip word processors and use that or LaTex?

    Find me a wysiwyg html/css editor (that outputs nice clean css/html after being edited by 5 people) that my secretary can use (he's a liquid-paper on the screen type) and I'll support that.

    It would be nice if we were all using CSS/html - but for knocking out quick documents word processors are far easier (even doing things the laborious way this guy suggests)
  • In other words... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anne Honime ( 828246 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @04:15AM (#15251877)
    ...Learning good typography skills makes for prettier documents. Yeah. Old news. But alas, it's the purpose of word processors to avoid learning proper typo, and LatTeX is already far better at typesetting than any suite out there.

    As long as word processors won't erase superfluous spaces, doubled returns, and start of line tabs, I see no hope of a global users' skills rising.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@fredshom[ ]rg ['e.o' in gap]> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:19AM (#15252030) Homepage
    I don't believe any of them is any better in the quality department.

    Maybe you don't care about things like proper typesetting and ligatures but for some people these things matter. Even for plain printed text. This falls squarely in the quality department for me.

    In French it's even more obvious. For example before a colon or a semicolon you insert a thin space. in addition to the ASCII character set there are numerous accented characters in use, including capitals (which the braindead French keyboard makes difficult to enter, moreso in Windows where apparently you're supposed to memorize character codes). Actually English uses a lot of accented characters as well via the import of foreign colloquialisms although omitting them doesn't seem to matter much (déjà-vu vs. deja-vu). All of this is handled gracefully by TeX and is apparently made difficult on purpose by most word processors.

    Anyway there *is* quite a bit of diference in output quality between a random wordprocessor (Word, OOWrite, etc.) and *TeX. You presumably just don't have the eye for it.
  • by fishbot ( 301821 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @06:37AM (#15252353) Homepage
    Maybe they do want ponies. That's fine. It is no good saying, effectively, that the reason MS docs don't always translate well to OO and vice versa is that users get it wrong. This article is just falling back on the old BS about how the program is perfect. That it produces poor results if, of course, all the dumb user's fault. We need to move on from this and put the focus on programming that serves the user.

    OK, so lets look at this from the point of view of a developer trying to build a system that serves the user's needs. The users treat the wordprocessor as a typewriter with fonts, but they want it to magically update properly when they move stuff around and change options. So ... what could we give them?

    Well, for a start we could give them controls that let them specify how far into the page the paragraph is without resorting to tabs that can get messed up. Let's call that the "indentation". Also, we could let the user tell the software "this is my heading" and it should know how what font to use. We could call them "styles". Hey, and how about if people want a gap under the paragraphs without having to remember to press enter every time? We could have a setting that tells it how big the gap could be!

    Of course, this has all been done already. The problem is that the constant bleating of "the software should do what the user wants" is the basic assumption that the software can figure out what the hell the user wants, without even being told! Easy to use software does not mean 'software that needs no manual'. Creating a document that can be properly updated without the leg work of manually reformatting every bit of it, even within the same word processor, requires a slight shift in thinking from 'purely presentation' to 'structure and style'.

    The exact same shift in thinking is what causes some HTML pages to resemble a mass of <br> tags and non-breaking spaces, and some to resemble just a handful of <p> tags and let the CSS do the rest. If you are determined that you are going to use <br> and &nbsp; regardless of what is available to you, on the grounds that you don't already know how to do it and shouldn't have to learn, then you deserve everything you get.
  • Re:Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @09:52AM (#15253456) Homepage
    I wrote my new CV today. They wanted it in "doc, pdf or txt" - certainly a non-choice. Hello, vi! Other formats available on request ;) Mind you, plaintext has its pitfalls too - I'd hate for the people to discard it on grounds of "it looks like a mess!" because they opened it in Notepad...

    You're right, it's a non-choice. PDF! It doesn't matter what program you use to create the content, and it'll look practically the same in any viewer on any OS. As you note, "plain text" is vague and open to interpretation. Line endings and tabs are especially subject to mangling, and carefully laid-out columns are destroyed if the reader is using a proportional font.

    Other than ink on paper, PDF is the most reliable path I know to WYSIWIS (What You See Is What I See).

    (Though I agree with you about content creation with vi. The original format of my resume is HTML created in vi, which I then load into OpenOffice to produce text, doc, pdf, or anything else someone might ask for.)

  • by ElleyKitten ( 715519 ) <kittensunrise@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:42AM (#15254310) Journal
    I installed it 14 months ago while visiting. She's on dialup, doesn't have/need dynamic dns or have openssh enabled....She's at the mercy of the default install. Again, she's an old lady with NO knowledge of computers and gets intimitated by them. Like the saying goes, it should "just work" for her needs and the OOO defaults do not.

    Dude, you installed an operating system on her computer that she doesn't know how to configure and appearently does not have the skills to learn, and you didn't take the time to set it up for her needs nor are you willing to help her when she has problems? You're the ass here, not the OOo and Ubuntu teams that aren't psychic enough to know exactly which defaults she in particular would like to have (and then force them on everyone else). She's your mother, dude, go teach her how to use this operating system and office suite that you dumped on her.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard