OpenOffice is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace as a cost-cutting measure for IT departments that want to eliminate the expense of maintaining Microsoft OFfice licenses. This financial savings doesn’t come without a few potential quirks. For instance, if you use Microsoft Office on your home computer, the default file format used by OpenOffice, .ODT, is not compatible with Microsoft Word prior to Word 2007. This goes the other way too, if you happen to use OpenOffice when you bring your work home and Microsoft Office in a corporate setting.

One solution to opening .ODT files in Word is to upgrade your older version of the app to Word 2007 or Word 2010. I realize this isn’t cost effective and may not be in the budget, but it’s the solution that automatically makes .ODT files accessible in Word natively.

Unless your work prohibits changing the file format, one easy long term solution is to configure OpenOffice to save Microsoft Word compatible files. To make this a permanent change in OpenOffice, go to Tools > Options, then choose Load/Save > General. In the lower right corner of the screen you should see a dropdown menu that allows you to Always Save As. For maximum compatibility, choose Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP, which will save files with the .DOC extension.

Obviously changing the way OpenOffice saves files in the future won’t solve your problem if you have a .ODT file you need to edit in Word right now.

There are three ways you can open a .ODT file in Word with relative ease. Two involve downloading some additional software and one requires a free Google account.

Open the ODT File in Google Docs

Google Docs UploadIf you prefer to avoid installing any additional software on your computer, the best solution for opening an .ODT file in Word is to convert the .ODT file to .DOC using Google Docs. After you sign in to Google Docs, click the upload button, browse to the .ODT file on your computer and import it to Google Docs.

You will want to convert the OpenOffice ODT to the Google Docs format as you upload with settings similar to the screenshot below.

Convert OpenOffice ODT to Google Docs

After you import the file to Google Docs, you can download a Microsoft Word compatible file by going to File > Download as > Word in the Google Docs editing interface. Once you download a Word file from Google Docs, open the file in Word and edit it just like you would any other .DOC file.

Intalling the ODF Add-in for Microsoft Office

The Open Document Format (ODF) is what OpenOffice uses when it creates files. Typically these files are either .ODT, .ODS, or .ODP extensions, depending on whether they are a document, spreadsheet, or presentation. The ODF Add-in for Microsoft Office allows these files to be recognized by Microsoft Office applications. In the case of .ODT files, this plug-in makes it easy for you to open a .ODT file in Microsoft Word. The ODF Add-in can be downloaded from SourceForge, where it is available for free. Look for the file named OdfAddInForOfficeSetup-en_4.0.5309.exe on the page if you are looking for the English language version. After you install the Add-in, you should be able to open .ODT files in Word.

Installing OpenOffice

Another free option is to install OpenOffice on the computer where you currently have Microsoft Office installed. OpenOffice is free, so this is another affordable option. After installing OpenOffice, you can either opt to edit the .ODT file directly in OpenOffice or save the file as a Microsoft Word .DOC file so you can edit it in Word. If you’d prefer to work in Microsoft Word, first open the .ODT file in OpenOffice, save it as a .DOC file, then open the new .DOC file in Word. I know that sounds a little convoluted, but installing OpenOffice is one of the more obvious ways to work with OpenOffice files on your computer.

There are probably additional ways you can convert .ODT files to make them work with Microsoft Office, but keep in mind that other than installing the ODF Add-in, there is no way to natively open .ODT files in Microsoft Word.