Into the gap have stepped some third party developers:
Docx Converter will convert a Microsoft Office .docx file into a simple html file. (It strips out some of the formatting, but now supports bold, italic, and underlined text. Left, right, center, and justified alignment etc.) A Mac widget is also available.
docx2doc allows you to upload a docx document It was free, but apparently seems to be in such high demand it now costs either $1 or $2 per document converted. Payment is via PayPal; upon payment you’ll receive a download link via email.
Panergy’s docXconverter sounds more straightforward, but will cost you: $20 or $30 for two years of maintenance and upgrades. We should hope Microsoft won’t be that long to come out with their own converter.
None of these is perfect; we shouldn’t have to hand over money just to read a document. Of course the best solution is to save documents in the old doc format if you’re going to share them with other people.
The free, open source Office suite, OpenOffice, is now officially into version 1.1, including enhancements such as “revolutionary” XML file format, one-click PDF (Adobe Acrobat) export and Macromedia Flash export for presentations and drawings, according to The Register.
There is is enhanced MS Office file compatibility, accessibility support and a faster load times. Supported languages include English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese (simplified & traditional), Korean and Japanese. Of course, it’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris.
It’d be too much to suggest that Bill Gates reads my column, but Microsoft seem to be buying my idea (well not mine, really) that prices of their software should be geared to what local people can afford. IDG News Service’s Taipei Bureau reports that the US software company has cut the price of its Windows operating system and Office application suite in Thailand. Quoting a report released by market analyst Gartner Inc (it’s an Acrobat PDF file) Microsoft has reduced the cost of an Office and Windows package there for $40 and may do the same thing in China.
The move seems to be in the face of a government program which ended up selecting Red Hat Inc.’s Linux operating system and Sun Microsystems Inc.’s StarOffice productivity suite when Microsoft did not at first participate. Windows XP in the U.S. sells for between $85 and $130, IDG says, while Office XP Professional sells for about $250.
All this can only be good news, and bad news — eventually — for pirates.
OpenOffice, the free open source challenge to Microsoft Office, is in its last stage before general commercial release next month. It includes the usual — a word processor, a spreadsheet application — and can save in Office formats. This version can also export files in the portable document format (PDF) and in Macromedia’s Flash animation format. OpenOffice 1.1 also supports non-Latin character sets, and is available in 30 languages. Maybe now is the time to try it out. You can download the ‘release candidate’ version here.
If money is a problem, it’s a great solution. Am I using it? Er, no. But that’s because I’m too lazy to get over the (admittedly rather gentle) learning curve involved in making the transition. This is professional software, and it’s good enough for prime time.