Politics and Whatnot

Just another liberal political blog

Using LibreOffice to unlock “missing” features on Office Starter 2010

I’m not about to make this blog into Lifehacker or anything, but I wanted to post something about this neat little trick I came up with.  I recently purchased a computer, and with it, received a copy of Office 2010 Starter Edition.   I previously had Office XP, and found that Office 2010 was actually a substantial downgrade.  I could probably write a multi-volume treatise on all of the things I hate about Office 2010, but let’s just say it comes down to new annoyances in interface, startup time, and MS’s attempts to monopolize both office software and my computer, all while adding no improvements whatsoever from Office XP/2003.  So I downloaded LibreOffice, and have been using that despite it’s own comparatively minor flaws.  Unfortunately, my line of work often requires collaboration with others who still are using Office in one form or another, and some of the formatting does not always translate properly between LibreOffice and Word.  For these instances, I force myself to use Office Starter Edition.

However, there’s one flaw with this system: Starter Edition does not have all of the features that I used to have on Office XP, including tracking changes, table of contents, footnotes, and several others.  Further encouraging Microsoft’s dominance of office software by paying a ridiculous sum of money for a full version of “updated” software that has only gotten worse of the last decade is not an option for me, and my old computer with Office XP has been converted to another use.  So what do I do?

After a little thinking and experimentation, I came up with the following workaround:

1. Open the document in LibreOffice

2. Add whatever feature you need in LibreOffice (e.g. put in a footnote, turn on tracking changes).

3. Save the document (as .odt has worked best for me so far).

4. Reopen the document in Word, and find that the “missing” feature has been activated.  For example, tracking changes should work as normal in Word once it has been activated in LibreOffice, and you can copy and paste the footnotes within the document in Word to create new ones, which should be numbered properly.

5. Finally, save the document to use as a template in case you need to use the same features again.

Unfortunately, this won’t work great for all features – for example, the table of contents seems to only be updatable (by right clicking on the table in word) if you save it as an .odt file when transferring from Libreoffice to Word, and it will likely have some differences.  There’s also the possibility that some other formatting issues will occur during the transition to and from LibreOffice.  So this is not a perfect solution, but for those who prefer LibreOffice but need to occasionally use MS Office, it may be good enough.

Update 12/10/11: edited to indicate that table of contents works if save as .odt.

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