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OpenOffice and HTML

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on August 8, 2008
(Issue 2632, Nuts and Bolts: Video Cards and Flat Screens)

The last few columns, we've looked at the way Microsoft Word and Corel's WordPerfect X4 save documents to HTML format. As we've pointed out, Word creates Web documents with tons of extraneous code, and uses non-HTML "mso" tags that only work with Microsoft's own Internet Explorer web browser.

On the other hand, WordPerfect's latest iteration does as good a job as previous versions at converting even complex print documents into clean web pages, with universally recognized HTML tags that will display properly in any browser.

While WordPerfect is far more affordable than Word (and in addition to saving clean HTML documents will also open and save to Word-format documents), OpenOffice is the free word processing alternative available for the download.

For those of us who create documents for both print and online use, how does OpenOffice fare?

Well, it's far superior to Word in terms of creating clean code, but still a bit busy compared to WordPerfect.

While HTML docs created with OpenOffice use stylesheets to keep the look and feel of the print document in an online environment (same type face or font, same size, etc.), as do Word and WordPerfect, OpenOffice takes the Word approach and uses an embedded stylesheet in which the various tag values are defined in the HTML head.

But the implementation is a bit weird; rather than assigning one default value assigned to the body tag, it creates a series of paragraph styles – meaning each paragraph has to have a class assigned to it.

While WordPerfect uses inline stylesheets (in which each paragraph has its own stylesheet defined within its tag), and so should theoretically have a more cluttered look than the same document saved to HTML with OpenOffice, OpenOffice uses both lowercase and uppercase tags and class definitions, leading to a some really sloppy-looking code.

But it displays correctly in all kinds of browsers, which is more than one can say about HTML docs created in Word.