Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why won't my *.odt or *.ods file open?

At about 2:oo this afternoon, a distraught young lady asked a librarian why her resume wouldn't open on a library Public Access Computer. When Tim noticed that the resume's file extension was .odt rather than the expected .doc of a Microsoft Word document, he brought the problem to my desk.

I immediately agreed with him that this resume had been created with a non-Microsoft word processor that uses XML to generate "Open Document Format" files. In this case, Open Office Writer which saves, by default, using the .0dt extension. My experience has been that Microsoft applications do not open their .odf counter parts.

However, this problem can be dealt with in at least two ways: Avoid the problem by always saving files created within the Open Office suite as .rtf (Rich Text Format) or by saving using the format denoted by the Microsoft counter part. For example, save files created by the OO Writer as .doc, by OO Calc as .xls (Microsoft Excel), and so on.

The other way to solve the problem is a bit more cumbersome and not always available: Install the current Open Office suite, open the problem file, and save it to the appropriate format. The library likes to help people in trouble, so we installed Open Office on a staff computer, opened the troubled job-seeker's resume, printed it, and off she went to her interview.

We're happy to have helped this woman in the pursuit of her job, but we'd much rather see her avoid the problem in the first place. If you're going to use Open Office, and it's a fine product, and you think you might want to open the files elsewhere, save a copy in the corresponding Microsoft format, or play it safe and save in Rich Text Format!

c 2009 Waterloo Public Library

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