OT: MS Office use (was: Re: [OS X TeX] Hyperlink failure with TeXShop and Preview)

Adam M. Goldstein amgoldstein at mac.com
Thu Feb 22 13:44:43 EST 2007

On Feb 22, 2007, at 12:14 PM, Bruno Voisin wrote:

> Le 22 févr. 07 à 17:35, Roussanka Loukanova a écrit :
>> BTW, what do you use Microsoft and Office for: perhaps they are  
>> good for some specific tasks? I've been thinking to try to solicit  
>> money from the dept for iWorks, but am reluctant before 10.5,  
>> hoping that 10.5 would come bundled with something, at least  
>> equivalent, if not better.
> - Word: to collaborate writing research proposals; to read notes  
> received from admin sources, which often come as .doc files; to  
> complete forms, which also often come as .doc files. Trying to  
> educate the senders so that they use PDF or ODF formats is just not  
> worth the effort currently. Hopefully things will change, but for  
> the moment admin people (at least in my experience) seem to think  
> objecting to MS Office documents just signals you're either  
> pedantic or have too much free time in your hands.

I have had experiences similar to the ones Bruno relates regarding  
objecting to MS Office documents. Some people seem to think that  
using the latest version of Word or Excel is a sign of being on top  
of things, being on the cutting edge. "There's no need for such  
outdated techniques as embedding markup in the document; we're beyond  
that now," they say. Also some people seem generally suspicious of  
open source projects, the idea apparently being that if there is no  
big corporation to back up the software, there is no support, and  
that it must not be professional quality.

I dread collaborating with Word users and I frequently try to think  
of how I can work with them. I could write using LaTeX, then export  
it to RTF; but then what do I do with the Word document when I get it  
back? There doesn't seem to be a good way of integrating it into  
LaTeX again. The commenting features I mentioned above clearly will  
not work.

> - Excel: to read and fill in spreadsheets, also coming from admin  
> sources.

I have found Openoffice.org's spreadsheet to be able to work with  
Excel reasonably well, including if the Excel spreadsheet comes with  
complicated coloring, tables, borders, etc.

> OpenOffice.org is OK for working on your own, but generally it  
> fails when dealing with Office files coming from outside. For  
> example, .doc files containing tables of any reasonable complexity  
> generally come out wrong in OOo, page breaks are changed, and so  
> forth. Plus, I won't consider using OOo myself until a native Aqua  
> version is available (which is supposed to come out soon).

I agree with Bruno on this---it's very hard to work with Word  
documents of anything more than minimal complexity using  
Openoffice.org's Writer application. Some people love to use Word's  
commenting features, which allows people to mark up the document with  
"stickies" and all kinds of arrows and strikeouts. Openoffice.org  
cannot handle this at all.

Dr. Adam M. Goldstein
amgoldstein <at> mac <dot> com

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