Microsoft Office vs Open Office

OpenOffice installed on their computer.

OpenOffice Flexibility vs. Microsoft Word

OpenOffice is capable of working with files in proprietary OpenOffice formats as well as Microsoft Office file formats. Microsoft Office programs like Microsoft Word cannot work with OpenOffice formats.

Part 1

Using OpenOffice and Microsoft Office on Your Computer

You can use both Microsoft Office and OpenOffice on your computer at the exact same time and they can actually work well together. However, sometimes it can be a little confusing when you are opening or closing files. Sometimes it may seem like your Office files have been converted into an OpenOffice format and that you can’t retrieve your Microsoft files again. The purpose of this tutorial is to learn how to avoid this confusion.

To Open Files

1. When you first installed OpenOffice you were allowed to choose whether to use OpenOffice or regular Office to open your Microsoft Office files.

2. By default, there will not be a check mark next to documents that are proprietary Microsoft formats.

3. If you did not place check marks in any of these boxes when you installed OpenOffice, Microsoft Office is going to use its files in the normal way.

4. If check marks are placed in these boxes, OpenOffice will open the Microsoft Office files in OpenOffice formats. In order to open a Microsoft file format you simply have to start OpenOffice and click on File, then click Open. Open Office will work with the file even if it was originally in a Microsoft Office file format.

5. If you are installing OpenOffice on a trial basis, you may not want to add these check marks until you decide if you are going to use the software.

How to Save Files

1. If you are using Microsoft Word, then Save as usual and the file will be saved in the ordinary Microsoft format.

2. If you are using OpenOffice, you can decide to save your file in the Microsoft format or in an OpenOffice format. To do so, click on File, then Save As. When the file type box pops up, select whatever format you would like to save in.

3. If you open up a Microsoft Office document in the OpenOffice software and you have not made any changes to the document, when you click on File, then Close, the file will still be saved in the Microsoft document format. If you do make changes to your document and you click Close, you will be prompted to Save, Cancel or Discard.

4. If you click on Cancel, the option of closing will be cancelled and the document will still be open.

5. If you click on Discard, the modified file will be lost but the original file will still be available to you.

6. If you click on Save, a dialog will appear stating that the document contains content or formatting that cannot be saved in the original format.

Downloading Microsoft Files From the Internet

1. While on the Internet, Copy the material of your choice.

2. While in OpenOffice, click on the drop-arrow next to the Paste icon to bring up the paste menu.

3. Click on Unformatted Text so the material is pasted into your OpenOffice document.

4. If you have saved material from the net already in OpenOffice but you did not use Paste then Unformatted Text, then the following may occur:

5. When the document opens so you can make changes, you may end up experiencing some difficulties while attempting to add paragraphs in order to create a Table of Contents. You should click on the Non-Printing Characters icon. If you see any other icons aside from the Non-Printing Characters icon in your document, then you must delete and replace those characters with the OpenOffice equivalent. After you have completed this you will be able to make the formatting changes you need without issue.

6. Notice: You are going to have to manually delete and replace each of the incorrect icons. There is no way to replace them automatically.


A file’s icon will indicate which application Windows will use to open it.

1. If you did not add check marks, then the icon for Microsoft files is going to be the standard Microsoft icon.

2. If you did add check marks, then Microsoft files will have the OpenOffice icon. Even when the OpenOffice icon appears for files that have Microsoft extensions like DOC, PPT and XLS, the file is still actually a Microsoft file format.

How to Stop OpenOffice from Opening Microsoft Files

If, when you first installed the OpenOffice software, you placed check marks by the Microsoft file formats so they would open with OpenOffice and you decide that you would rather this not happen, you are going to need to re-associate all of the word processing, presentation and spreadsheet files with the right file type.

You can use either of the following methods:

Method 1: Three Letter Extension Change

1. Go into the file types setting by going to Tools or to Folder Options from “My Computer”.

2. Delete the current associations for .xls, .doc or any file types that you want to reset the associations for.

3. The next time you click on a file in that file type, it’s going to ask you what program you want to use in order to open it. Click on Excel, Word or whatever program you would like to use.

Method 2: Change Default Settings from Within OpenOffice

1. Launch any file in the suite, such as the OpenOffice Writer program.

2. Click Tools, Options.

3. Click the “+” sign to expand the Load and Save section in the far left pane.

4. Under Load/Save, click on General.

5. Under Default File Format near the dialog’s bottom, select what type of document you would like in the Document Type list.

6. To the right you will find Always Save As, and you should change the file format to Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP.

Repeat these two steps for any other documents that you would like to convert back into the Microsoft Office format, and then select the appropriate save-as-format. Click OK and your settings will be saved. From this point on, when you save your document the default format will be the original Microsoft Office file format or extension.

Part 2

Sending Files from OpenOffice to Others

1. If you are sending a file to someone who does not use OpenOffice but the file is in an OpenOffice format, your recipient will not be able to use the file.

2. If you send the file to someone who does not have OpenOffice, you should be sending it in a Microsoft-friendly file format since most people have MS Word on their computers.

3. If the person does not have OpenOffice installed on their computer, you can suggest that they download it.

4. There is a free plug-in that allows MS Office users to use the OpenOffice format for opening, editing and saving files. To download this plug-in, visit

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