OpenOffice docs not opened by Word 2010

OpenOffice .odt files should open with Word 2010 – but not always.

Margaret H. says

I downloaded a .odt file from Wikipedia but when I tried to open it in Word 2010 all I get are errors. Even the repair option doesn’t work. I thought Word 2007 and 2010 supported OpenOffice documents?

Wikipedia has a nifty ‘book’ feature that lets you compile a group of Wikipedia pages then download them in PDF or the OpenOffice .odt document format. It’s a useful way to compile a nicely formatted set of pages on a single subject.

Margaret’s problem is with the .odt download and Microsoft Word. Word can’t open the .odt created by Wikipedia. All you get is an ‘Unspecified Error’ message pointing to (content.xml Line 2 Column 0). Even more peculiar is that the document recovery mode yields the same error.

Word 2007 Service Pack 2 and Word 2010 are supposed to support .odt files, so what gives?

Initially we thought the Wikipedia generated document might be faulty. However various OpenOffice applications open the same document without complaint (ie OpenOffice 3 and Google Docs).

Then we looked inside the Wikipedia odt file. Like Microsoft’s .docx format, the .odt file is a series of xml files compressed in a ZIP container.

The XML content seems OK and certainly isn’t corrupted in any obvious way. Most likely, there is some minor variation in the expected document structure that causes Word to complain. However the recovery feature in Word should be able to find most, if not all, the document content.

Microsoft, as always, pays lip-service to support for any rivals. They’ll spend a lot of time in document recovery features for their own formats but are less motivated to help customers dealing with non-Microsoft matters.


Workarounds

The short term workaround is to open the .odt file elsewhere and save it into another format that Microsoft Word will accept. Try saving to .DOC or .RTF format.

OpenOffice is available as a free download. Google Docs can open .odt files but has a size limit on uploads. There are various online conversion services, but we’ve had mixed results with them and are reluctant to recommend one.

Note: The PDF version of the Wikipedia book has headers and footers which make it messy to convert. Better to convert the .odt format.


Fixes

Maybe Wikipedia could investigate and change their ‘book’ code to make an .odt file that both Open Office and Microsoft Office accept?

Microsoft could improve their document recovery feature. At the moment it seems pretty useless if it can’t or won’t extract plain xml formatted text.

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