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Microsoft Office to OpenOffice Migration Guide
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Import, export and sharing issues in text documents

Good practice in text documents

Some issues can be avoided simply by using good word-processing practice:

  • Use character and paragraph styles rather than direct formatting.

  • Use paragraph formatting for space before and after rather than hard returns, particularly in numbered or bulleted lists.

  • Use paragraph text flow properties (for example, keep with next) rather than using manual page breaks.

  • Do not use multiple tabs or spaces to align text – either set specific tab stops or better yet use a table.

  • Use only commonly available fonts.

Compatibility settings in for the current document

The following settings change the way works with the current document so that it works more like Microsoft Office.

Use Tools > Options > Writer > Compatibility (Figure 4).


Add paragraph and table spacing at tops of pages (in current document)

In Writer, with this setting unchecked, if a paragraph at the top of the page (or column) is formatted with space above then that space is ignored; whereas in Word the space above is included. Checking this option causes Writer to behave in the same way as Word.

Use 1.1 tabstop formatting

This setting specifies whether centered and right-aligned paragraphs containing tabs are formatted as a whole in the center or aligned to the right. If this checkbox is checked, only the text to the right of the last tab is aligned to the right, while the text to the left remains as is.

Use 1.1 line spacing

Writer uses the greater of the two spacings for above and below paragraphs; Word sums the two together. Uncheck this box to have Writer behave in the same way as Word.

Font and font spacing

Text effect animations are imported by Writer with the character attribute of blinking from Word files. For example “Marching red ants” simply becomes “blinking”.

Typically Word’s character spacing is tighter than Writer’s, so often Word will fit more characters to a line. It is also possible that the spacing between lines could be slightly different. The end result is that the page breaks may be in different places.


The author could find no issues with tables.

Mail merge documents

As has a different approach to data sources. On importing a Word document that is the main document for a mail merge, there is no connection with the data source. It is not just a matter of making that connection; each field needs to be reinserted. See the Mail Merge section in the chapter titled “Differences in use between Writer and Word”.

Also in Word you can have another Word document as a data source for a mail merge. There is no way of specifying a Word (or Writer) document as a data source in

Writer does not have the option of suppressing blank lines when data fields are empty, so you need to use conditional fields.

Writer merge fields export as text with the name of the field between angle brackets, for example <Name>.

Summary: To work in a shared environment would require a separate file for each “main document”: one in Word format, the other in format. If you have a master mail merge document in Word format, it is probably easiest to paste the text into Writer and use the Writer mail merge wizard to recreate the mail merge from scratch.


Issues with forms created in Microsoft Office

A locked file in Microsoft Office imports unlocked into; that is, in design mode.

Text form fields import into as Input fields and so lose their type. For example, a text form field of type “number” or “date” will accept any text for input. In use a text form field in displays a dialog for entering the text. Exporting back to Microsoft Office, text form fields are changed into “Fillin” fields. The current date and time and calculation fields import as simple text.

Checkboxes import and export correctly.

Drop-down form fields import as Input List fields. Like text form fields in operation these display a dialog from which the user can select an option. On export back to Microsoft Office they return to drop-down form fields again.

Issues with forms created in

The controls are exported as active controls when there is a Microsoft Office equivalent. As Word does not have the same database functionality of and as the macros are not compatible, it would be very difficult to have one form that works in both environments using standard form controls.

Summary: To work in a shared environment with forms is not easy, but one workaround would be to use other fields like Input field and Input List. To insert these fields, use Insert > Fields > Other > Functions.

Footnotes, endnotes, tables of contents and indexes

Footnotes, endnotes and indexes all import / export correctly. Some issues have been found:

  • The location of the endnotes may change (in Word the endnotes are placed before the index. In Writer they are always at the end of the document).

  • Writer bibliographic entries become text in Word.

  • A three-column index exported from Writer to Word as three columns but on re-import it was one column.

  • On importing a Word file containing index entry fields, the index entry fields are imported but as fields to the left of the text rather than the field containing the text.

Summary: Working in a shared environment is possible with some minor issues.

Numbered paragraphs, outline numbering, cross-references

Numbered paragraphs, outline numbering, and cross-references import / export without a problem, except for references to numbered paragraphs:

  • Cross-references to the numbers of numbered paragraphs that are not numbered using outline numbering do not work as Writer does not have this ability.

  • Writer also does not have the ability to use relative numbering in its cross-references to numbers.

  • Cross-references to chapter numbers do not have the same format as that displayed.

Page numbering

A quick and dirty approach in Word for having a different first page (like a cover page) and then to have the numbering start on the second page but numbered as page 1 is to have a layout of different first page and setting the starting page to be zero. Unfortunately, on importing such a file into the page number on the second page is 2 instead of 1. To fix this problem in Writer:

  1. Create a page style for how the pages after the first page should look. Name it (for example) Convert1.

  2. Have the cursor in the first paragraph of the second page.

  3. Format > Paragraph > Text Flow.

  4. In the Breaks portion of the dialog, select the checkbox Insert.

  5. Check With Page Style.

  6. Choose the page style created in step 1.

  7. Leave the position as Before and set the page number to 1.

On exporting this document back to Word it will work, the only difference being that the document will have a section break at the end of the first page. Documents created with section breaks like this in Word will work fine importing and exporting with Writer. There is one difference with Word: now there will be a blank page between the cover page and the next page when printed (or print previewed).

In the author’s testing a document with different formats for odd and even page numbering, the odd page numbers were imported as the text of the first odd page rather than as a field.

Summary: For some documents a little work maybe required to fix up the page numbering on importing to Writer. Once “fixed” the page numbering of the documents will import / export without a problem.

Date and time fields

Word’s CreateDate and SaveDate fields do not get imported with the same formats. For example, if the fields in the Word document have a format that includes time, then this information is not displayed by default. To include time in the format:

Right-click on the field > Fields > scroll to the bottom of the Formats listbox > Additional formats > in format code add HH:MM:SS

On export the SaveDate / DocInformation:Modified is exported as text.

Writer’s Time Fixed and Date Fixed fields get exported as text.

Importing Word fields

Table 2. Imported Word fields conversion

Word field:

Writer converts to:


Input field




Number Range AutoNr


Number range AutoNr


Number range AutoNr










File name


Input field


(as a hyperlink)

INFO xxx







(the name of the macro?)


Mail merge fields (displayed as the name of the field)


Record number


Next record


Show variable


Statistics (with select = Characters)


Statistics (with select = Pages)


Page numbers


Bookmarks (displayed as name of bookmark)


DocInformation:Document number




Number range


Set variable










(Displays the table of contents)

The following fields are not imported into (only the text that they displayed when last saved): =, IF, DOCPROPERTY, FILESIZE, LINK, LISTNUM, QUOTE, SECTION, SECTIONPAGES, STYLEREF, TOA, USERADDRESS, USERINITIALS, USERNAME.


The Word field EDITTIME is mapped to Writer field DocInformation:Modified on import but the meaning has changed to the date and time last saved rather than how long the file has been open for editing.

Microsoft Office to OpenOffice Migration Guide
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