I often share documents with colleagues. I use LibreOffice (and OpenOffice). But my colleagues use Microsoft Office. My documents always look differently when opened in MS Office (.doc and .odt format). Converting them to pdf is not an option as the documents are also edited by my colleagues. Online office software like Google Docs is not an option, either.

So based on your experience, is there a document format that will make my file look more similar in both software?


You can try with RTF - Rich Text Format , maybe will have better luck. It is designed for cross-platform document interchange and all word processors are able to open it

  • 2
    .rtf is far from ideal in my experience unless the file happens to be very simple; for complex files, I find it is worse. The caveats on wikipedia are worth reading. – jon May 15 '12 at 2:32

I had the same problem myself. Unfortunately there is no way of getting round this. You have to save the file in a windows compatible format. But when you do LibreOffice (and oo) convert the doc to MS format and this is where the errors creep in. Sorry but there is no real way of getting around this.

  • how about html? I mean, it is not really a format for documents, but we can use it as a way to exchange documents. I have no experience about its interoperability. Anyone has any idea? – HongboZhu May 3 '12 at 9:17
  • You are still going to have problems, I don't think this is the solution as opening HTML in word is likely to do odd things (e.g having no margins) – geminiCoder May 3 '12 at 9:20

If you are using Windows, then you can install for free the Word Viewer. The English language version is at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?displaylang=en&id=4

You can also install an extension for LibreOffice and OpenOffice called StarXpert MSO Preview. The short description is “Current document preview into MS-Office viewers.” It is in the LibreOffice and OpenOffice catalogs.

The above should help you see problems and possibly work-around them before you send documents to your colleagues.

There is another approach that does not require additional software. I will use LibO as an example. Create the document in LibO and save it in doc format. Then open the saved doc file in LibO. This round trip should reveal most problems, which you could then attempt to work-around.

If you are using LibO, you are probably using either the 3.5 or 3.4 code line. You should use the most recent release in that code line. At present it would be either 3.5.3 or 3.4.6.

I also suggest you check that the fonts you use are available to your colleagues. And in LibreOffice, look at Options -> LibreOffice Writer -> Compatibility. The options shown there may be helpful to you. They are described in more detail at http://help.libreoffice.org/Common/Compatibility

  • As of 24 Sep 2014, StarXpert MSO Preview has not been updated for v4 of LibreOffice (although it works), and needs word viewer to be installed. Word Viewer 2003 is a patchwork solution: it also needs a hefty 650 MB of download of compatibility packs to show more recent MS file formats. MS OneDrive has only a limited feature set of MS Word 2013/365, many of my documents created offline were "simplified" when viewed online. – olee22 Sep 24 '14 at 15:09
  • StarXpert MSO Preview - in fact it just creates a temp file and opens it in WordViewer. – olee22 Sep 24 '14 at 15:16

You might consider using Microsoft Skydrive and working within the feature limitations of the Skydrive implementations for Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, https://skydrive.live.com. You'll be able to control who else can access the Skydrive documents and also control whether it is read-only or editable.

It is a cloud solution and, since you will need to be doing your work in a browser, not necessarily as convenient as being able to work on the desktop. You can also try uploading ODF documents into Skydrive for sharing with your colleagues that way. This involves some level of conversion at the Skydrive end, especially if someone uses Microsoft Office to edit them on their desk top.

Bottom line, for collaborative work, it is generally necessary for all parties to use compatible tools that work nearly identically with the same format. That or you need to choose a limited feature set that will interconvert with minimal fuss.

  • I totally agree with you. But that's just theory. In practice, we can not always follow that. In my situation, online program is not an option. No Google Docs, no Skydrive, no ZOHO Office, no iCloud. I guess I will try out html first, or rtf. Hope they have better interoperability. – HongboZhu May 3 '12 at 14:13

I think your best bet would be Rich Text Format. You could also use google docs to edit and view your documents.


You can try learning how to use both Word and Writer and start using proper formating for your documents, Styles, tab-stops, page breaks, sections...

That way the documents will look the same when opened with both Writer and Word..


To use documents cross platforms/brands, this is not just a question of format.

  1. Main objective is layout: use PDF. Main objective is heavy editing: use docx. LibreOffice 4.x has very good .docx compatibility by my experience, I use this format, so far works well.
  2. Plan ahead for compatibility. Use simple features that exist in both software, and avoid very customized features offered in only one suite. Make your formatting with some buffer, for example if you insert a character, and the text flow changes importantly, there is a high chance that it will look different in a different machine/version/editor.
  3. Use MS Word viewer to check how it looks. Pay attention to use the version that your client will use (MS Word 2010, 2013 etc.) It's like making a web page and and checking in a browser in parallel how your output looks. Takes some extra time, but this is the most fool proof.

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