Investigating how well the competition handles DOCX files

You may like it or not, but there’s no denying: The file formats DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX that have been introduced by Microsoft with MS Office 2007 are on the rise. Microsoft’s sheer market dominance is responsible for that, but also the complacency of many users who don’t spend a thought on which file formats they share their documents in.

SoftMaker Office 2010 comes with mature filters for DOCX (Word) and XLSX files (Excel). Our competitors have started offering their filters earlier than we did, but our own testing revealed always severe quality issues with them. It’s good to see that the trade press is starting to come to similar conclusions: Germany’s leading computer rag c’t published a comparison of OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice and investigated how well both handle DOCX files.

Here are the sobering results:

In both packages [OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice], import worked only deficiently and was at best suitable for very simple text files. Even in those very simple text files, text was consistently laid out differently from Microsoft Word, and pictures were nearly always placed wrong. Even though OpenOffice and LibreOffice imported headings, numbering, and footnotes, they formatted the document in a completely different way from the original. Both packages handle Microsoft’s current Office file formats equally bad, and the import/export filters should be revised from the ground up before documents could be exchanged trouble-free. That there is a better way is demonstrated by SoftMaker whose TextMaker word processor handled the current Microsoft Word file format much more competently.

In our tests, LibreOffice’s export [to DOCX format] was successful only with the simplest of text files. More sophisticated documents could not even be opened in Word 2010. All attempts were answered by Word 2010 with an error message. But [for those documents that could be opened in Word 2010] the formatting was not correct in even a single case even with primitively structured documents. This made file exchange impossible in practice.

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