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Best practices for migrating MS Office to OpenOffice.org

My company, which has 35 users, is interested in moving from MS Office to OpenOffice.org. Can you offer advice on best practices for migrating? Are there any hidden loopholes? We don't want any unpleasant surprises!

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The best approach is to assign one or two motivated employees to see what the conversion will be like, before you begin or before you make the decision to switch. Have every user give them representative documents and typical tasks they complete, ranked from essential to nice to have, and let the designated team see how OpenOffice.org would work. You might be able to find reasonably priced contractors to do this, as well.

This is essential for anyone switching, even if you've already decided. Knowing what's coming before you begin the process is very helpful. If your documents convert beautifully, and they might, so much the better. If you have complex Office documents, you will probably need to do manual tweaking. Mail merge documents often need to be fixed after conversion, too.

Your designated team can use the mass document converter to speed things up. It creates an OpenOffice.org copy of every MS document you point it to. Choose File > AutoPilot > Document Converter.

See also the question from another reader on training. Good documentation is essential; good training is really helpful as well, since you can do a lot more with OpenOffice.org than it seems. Your designated team will need documentation in order to determine whether everything you do now that you absolutely need can be done in OpenOffice.org, and to determine any workarounds for important things that could be done another way if necessary. They might also find things that OpenOffice.org does better.

This was first published in May 2003

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