Convert MS Office documents to PDF (without having Office)

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Now it has its own domain: 🙂

If you want to read the latest version of this article (recommended) please click here and I open the page for you.

As I am working (mostly) on Linux I do not use Microsoft Office documents, even if sometimes I have to manage to handle them. OpenOffice is a free altenative to MS Office and it is also OS independent. It also can handle all the MS Office document types, but sometimes not with so much success.

For instance, what should looks like this:

the equation in MS Office

in fact is imported like this:

the same equation imported in OpenOffice

or, what should looks like this:

the identity determinant in MS Office

ends up in OpenOffice like this:

the same determinant but in OpenOffice

or, what should looks like this:

how it looks in MS Office

ends up in OpenOffice like this:

the same relation as above but imported in OpenOffice

The cause for this could be the fact that the OpenOffice’s equation editor does not recognize some symbols imported from the MS Office’s equation editor.

What can we do about this?

Well, if you can access the MS Office document by a direct link (i.e. http://the-place-where-my-doc-is/mydoc.doc) then you could use Google Docs Viewer application to view your MS Office document then you could just print it as a PDF document.

If the document is not available online and if you have a Google account then you could use the Google Drive application to upload your MS Office document on you Google drive, then you can view it within Google Doc viewer (just click on your document uploaded to your Google drive) to print it out as a PDF document.

Google knows how to properly open a MS Office document so all those problems mentioned above will be no problems anymore. In fact all the images shown above as “how they look in MS Office” were taken from the resulted PDF document (I don’t have MS Office, remember?).

The method I described does not imply you to have either MS Office or OpenOffice, all you need is an Internet connection and a browser. If you don’t need the document as a local PDF copy then you could just use the Google Docs viewer.


About Eugen Mihailescu

Always looking to learn more about *nix world, about the fundamental concepts of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. I am also passionate about programming, database and systems administration.
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