October 10, 2006

OpenDocument format gains handy conversion utility

Author: Tina Gasperson

If you use Microsoft Windows but don't have OpenOffice.org installed, you cannot open and read files in the OpenDocument text format (.odt). OOo is free and easy to download and install, but what if you're on a public terminal or a dialup connection? That's when you turn to AODC (An OpenDocument Converter), a small, free utility that quickly converts .odt files into .html files that you can see in your browser or text editor -- no office suite necessary.

Recently I was using a workstation at a library and received an important file from a source. I needed to access the file right away and didn't have time to download and install OpenOffice.org on the library's computer, even if I'd had permission to do so. I found AODC's beta release on SourceForge.net. The zipped package is only 485KB in size, unzips in seconds, and let me view my file when and where I needed to. After I used it at the library, I decided to test it further on my own computer.

Once you've downloaded AODC, the only thing you need to do to install it is unzip it to a designated folder. To run the program, open the folder and click on the AODC.exe file. You'll see a window that lets you specify a source file and a name for the new .html file. You can choose to just save the file, or select a program to open it with at the same time. Click on the Convert button, and you're done.

I opened my test file in Firefox first. AODC makes the new file look similar to the original, but don't expect clean and pretty HTML. Anything fancy, such as headings, indentations, and special font treatments, results in a lot of extra HTML code that you might have to clean up or remove if you want to edit and redistribute the file in another format.

For example, I also opened my new HTML file in Microsoft Word, then saved it as a .doc file and reopened it. The result showed a few random ASCII characters in place of quotation marks and other punctuation. This could be because of AODC's status as a beta release, or it could be Word's fault.

AODC is also able to convert OpenDocument spreadsheet files to HTML, but there are issues with some special features. For example, the file I tested had a drop-down box that didn't drop down in the HTML version.

Even with these minor imperfections, AODC could save your day if you have no other way to open and read an OpenDocument text or spreadsheet file.

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