Open Source

Convert Microsoft Office files to OpenOffice with the Star Office Migration Partner

If you're switching to OpenOffice, here's how to leverage the Star Office Migration Partner for mass migrations.

Many organizations have begun looking at OpenOffice as a potential replacement for Microsoft Office. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to migrating from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice deals with what to do with all of that data that your organization has piled up in Office documents. You can do a mass migration to OpenOffice by using Star Office Migration Partner.

What's the Star Office Migration Partner?

A company in Denmark called SCAI offers a product called the Star Office Migration Partner. StarOffice is the name for the Sun-supported version of OpenOffice, so this product is perfectly suited to converting large quantities of Microsoft Office documents into OpenOffice format. You can order this software from them for 99 Euros (about 117.81 U.S. dollars).

The software has kind of a tricky licensing model, though, because the license limits how many clients the software can service and the maximum number of documents that can be converted. The 99 Euro package limits the software to servicing 25 clients with up to 1,000 documents per client, but to a maximum of 20,000 documents across the organization. If you need to convert more clients or more documents, the price goes up.

How it works

You might be wondering what it is that makes this software worth the hefty price tag and complicated license. What's so handy about this software is that it searches your network for clients and servers that may potentially contain Microsoft Office documents. Once all potential locations for Microsoft Office documents have been identified, the software allows you to choose which computers you want to search for Office documents. This means that even if users have saved Microsoft Office documents on their local hard drive, you can still convert those documents to OpenOffice format so long as there is network connectivity between the workstation and the machine doing the conversion.

Once the software has located all of the Microsoft Office documents in your organization, it allows you to choose which documents you would like to convert. The nice thing about the software is that it doesn't attempt a blind conversion. Instead, it performs a thorough analysis of each document. When the analysis is complete, the software will generate a report. This report will tell you how many documents can be converted with no problems, and how many documents will need to have macros re-engineered. The software also shows you which documents have not been modified in more than 60 days, and will offer to archive those documents.

If you look at Figure A, you'll also notice that the software is smart enough to tell you how many documents need to be manually evaluated prior to conversion. When a document is flagged for manual evaluation, it means that there may or may not be problems with converting it, and that the software would rather alert the person doing the conversion to a potential problem rather than risk damaging a document should the conversion go badly.

Figure A

The migration utility will flag some documents as needing manual evaluation prior to conversion.

The first time I saw this utility, I thought that this feature was more of a nuisance than anything else. Sure, it's nice to be alerted to a potential problem, but I wondered how on earth I was supposed to be able to tell just by looking at a document whether it would properly convert to OpenOffice format or not.

What I found out was that the software allows you to drill down to see not only which documents have been flagged for manual evaluation, but also the reasons why the migration tool is asking you to manually evaluate the document. If you need a little more help, you can get a full description of the potential problem, including a workaround, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

You can get a full description of potential problems.

In my opinion, the SCAI Migration Analysis Suite is a little difficult to use because there is a pretty steep learning curve. Even so, if you have a lot of documents to convert that are scattered across multiple systems, then it's probably worth the effort and expense to use this method of converting documents. At the same time, however, if your document repositories are fairly well organized, the AutoPilot conversion tool that comes with OpenOffice is much easier to use.

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