ODF plugin for Word is available

Home-blog-2007-02-21

The plugin

Sun ODF plugin for Microsoft Office now available! says this page. It is a thing that makes Microsoft Word 2003 understand OpenDocument files, sort of anyway. I did a quick round-up of document converters last week but this one was not available.

You have to register and agree to a license which I think is non Open Source.

Testing

My initial tests were pretty positive so I started writing this page using the new plugin, in Microsoft Word. Things did go downhill, though.

First up, lets have a picture I took of a sad elephant sculpture by Bharti Kher. In the Queensland Art Gallery, it's covered in bindi.

graphics1

(inserted via Writer on the Mac cos thats where the photos are)

And a Word drawing of a clipart toilet saying Hmm

Object1

This drawing survived the round-trip bit it cannot be edited in NeoOffice, only Word. So it's not really in ODF.

The verdict?

More tests below, for document format geeks to admire, but what do I think, with my ICE project hat on?

  1. It's SLOOOOOW. About as slow as the way-too-slow Microsoft funded converter. Like a minute or so to open this little document slow. But it 's nicer to use because it uses Word's native open and save features.

  2. If you switch between Word and OpenOffice templates get detached. Easy to reattach in Word, and for OpenOffice you can repair the document using ICE. I had minor issues with the repair functions but we can fix those.

  3. There were some formatting issues, noted below.

  4. It all worked relatively smoothly, albeit slowly, and did I mention slowly?

  5. Until...

    ...It stopped working.

    What I put the document through:

    • Edited in Word 2003 (Windows)

    • Viewed but not changed in OpenOffice.org 2.0 (Windows)

    • Edited in NeoOffice on the Mac (after repairing in ICE)

    • Edited in Word 2003 on Windows

    • Opened in Word 2003 on Windows again and the document was completely messed up only a couple of paragraphs showing so I didn't save it.

    • Edited in OpenOffice.org 2.0 (Windows)

    • Viewed in Word 2003 Headers and footers had become embedded in the page in the wrong place.

    • Edited in NeoOffice on the Mac, worked fine apart from lists needing to be repaired again.

    • Opened in Word 2003 on Window, headers and footers still astray.

    • Pubished via ICE on the Mac.

Bottom line?

Well maybe, if it can be made to work about 100 times faster than it does now. That is it may be usable for ICE, where we use styles to carry all important document structure and can therefore fix conversion bugs and mismatches by reapplying styles and rebuild those pesky list structures in Word. In the wild it would be frustrating indeed to work with complex documents using this thing, just as it is with OpenOffice.org's Word support, upon which I understand this software relies.

By the way, have you seen the list of things that are different between the two formats, courtesy of the Microsoft funded Open Source project. The Sun funded non Open Source project doesn't seem to offer any list of known problems that I could see.

This is just my blog, and I have not yet done the same tests both available converters, just followed my nose...

Style tests

This all works except that at one point bullets became boxes when opened in NeoOffice and one list decided to start at the wrong place when opened in Word. Thing is, in the ICE system documents can be 'repaired' in both Word and writer; lists re rebuilt and reapplied; so minor issues like this don't really bother us.

Heres a bit of a workout for the list formatting.

Definition lists
These dont use any list functions, and they work fine.
Bullet lists
This is a definition list with:
  • A bullet list in it

  • With two bullets

    How about a Blockquote in here:

    This is quoted text.

  • And a third bullet

Numbered lists
  1. This is a numbered list

    SOME PREFORMATTED TEXT EMBEDDED IN THE LIST.
    USE THIS FOR PROGRAM CODE
  2. With two numbers

    1. And an embedded Roman-numbered list

    2. With two items in it

  3. Make that 3 numbers

    1. We need to check that this list restarts correctly when

    2. It is round tripped