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WP5.1 File Conversion Problems

Subscriber C.S. Jacobsen works in a small office that uses both Word and WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. Because Word understands WP5.1, and WP5.1 doesn't understand Word, it was decided to simply save Word documents in WP5.1 format, by default, so they could be shared by all users.

The only problem with this approach is that the older WP5.1 doesn't have the ability to store all the formatting information that is collected during the course of developing a document in Word. Thus, Word must either approximate some of the formatting information it maintains into comparable WP5.1 capabilities, or simply strip some of the formatting information completely. The result may be satisfactory when the document is loaded into WP5.1, but will be less than satisfactory when loading the document back into Word.

For example, I did a test with a rather generic Word 97 document. I formatted a few paragraphs with the default Normal style (NewCenturySchlbk 10), a few were explicitly formatted to a larger character font (Arial 12), a few to Heading 3 style (Arial 12), and finally a few to a different character font (Brush Script 10). I then saved the document in WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS format, closed the document in Word, and then reopened the document I just saved.

Upon reloading, Word opened the document OK, but the formatting was "messed up," by Word standards. The paragraphs that had been formatted in the default Normal style (NewCenturySchlbk 10) appeared OK, as were the paragraphs explicitly formatted as Arial 12. Those paragraphs previously formatted with Heading 3 style had that style stripped off, even though the characters appeared OK. In addition, there were hidden {PRIVATE} fields around the paragraphs to contain information that WP5.1 needs for formatting headings. The most noticeable difference in the document was in the final formatted paragraphs. What started out as Brush Script 10 now ended up as Courier New 10.

This small test simply illustrates the problem in converting between document formats. This is not a Word problem, per se, but a problem that can appear any time you convert between incompatible formats. What makes them incompatible? The absence of the exact same feature set in each format. Any time a feature is missing in one format, then approximations have to be made and original capabilities can be lost.

This example test doesn't illustrate some of the more severe problems that can crop up. For instance, let's say that the original Word document had been based on a specific template (not Normal.Dot). When the document was saved in WP5.1, the information about the template would have been lost (WP5.1 doesn't understand the concept of Word templates), even though there would have been approximations on font and paragraph spacing saved in the document. When that same document was then loaded back into Word, there was nothing in the file to indicate that the different template should be used, so the default Normal.Dot template would be used. This could present more formatting "oddities" in the converted document.

So what is the solution? The most obvious solution that presents itself is to standardize on a single word processing platform. (It is a business decision as to which platform that is, of course.) That decision to standardize can often be traumatic and painful for an organization. Thus, if it is not possible to standardize, then accommodations will need to be made. For instance, you could make sure that only Normal.Dot is used for all Word documents. You can also forget utilizing some of the advanced formatting features of Word that have no equivalent feature in WP5.1--they just won't make the round-trip translation properly. This includes features such as forms, template-based styles, macros, etc.

You could also try saving documents in the RTF format, which is understood by most all word processing programs and, I believe, by WP5.1 for DOS. Choosing this route will take some testing, however, as there can be incompatibilities in the implementation of RTF on different platforms. In other words, WP5.1 and Word use different RTF filters, and therefore may not translate everything the same.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (565) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

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Comments for this tip:

Brendon    12 Mar 2016, 03:29
i am trying to save word 2010 documents so they can be opened in wp5.1
saving to a .rtf file is not the answer !!!
with the older versions of Wrod it was easy just save to a .doc file and wp opened it.
but with word 2010 the .doc converter does not work in wp.
I will keep trying

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