From the slush minion’s diary #11: problems with Open Office (or LibreOffice) and RTF files

Let me preface this post by saying that I don’t work for, and neither am I subsidised by, Microsoft.

My word processor of choice was Word Perfect (remember that?) and I started using Word out of sufferance, mainly because I was running into too many compatibility problems.

For me, a piece of software has the following requirements:
– it must do what I want it to do, and
– it must be as portable as possible

Word DOC files are just that. Word DOCX are not.

Enter Open Office. If you you follow my tweets, you will have heard me talking about Open Office victims. In a batch of slush I received last week, there were two out of fifteen submissions.

In case you didn’t know this already, here it is in bold letters:

Do not use Open Office to make RTF files for submissions.

ETA: Important addition (Dec 2012): Using LibreOffice does NOT solve this problem

Just don’t, OK? I use Open Office, too. It’s cool because it’s free, and works well with files in DOC format (I’ve not used it in any other format).

When you save a document as RTF, however, the following may happen:

– OO deletes random (or even all) spaces
– OO deletes random words
– OO puts random slabs of text in allcaps
– OO replaces random characters with random other characters (often the letters G, J or H)
– OO replaces random characters with random characters from other (as in: non-roman) character sets. As in: Chinese.

The insidious bit is that the file may well look fine on the computer you have used to create it, but it is not portable to another computer. That other computer is likely to be the one of the magazine where you sent that submission.

This is a known problem of Open Office and has existed for years without anyone fixing it.

Short of buying other software, I’m not sure how you can fix it. If a magazine allows DOC submissions, use that option. I only ever use Open Office to edit DOC files. I never use the OO native format, or RTF. I am yet to encounter a problem, because the problem seems confined to RTF files. If you only have OO, it would pay to send the file to a friend with Word to check it.