Being mobile means you don’t have access to your PC. Not having access to your PC means you’re going to need as many tools as possible, because you never know what someone is going to throw at you. Now, what might surprise you is that Android can’t natively handle the Open Document Format (ODF). There is an outstanding ODF viewer (one that can currently only handle .odt and .ods files), but it won’t let you edit documents created using ODF. Fortunately, there’s a way around this.

First, I want to introduce you to OpenOffice Document Reader, which is a simple app that allows you to view both your OpenOffice Text and Spreadsheet documents. This app also features:

  • Zoom
  • Copy text
  • Formatting
  • Image support
  • Built-in file chooser
  • Spreadsheet support

OpenOffice Document Reader works exactly as you would expect. You open it up, use the built-in file manager to locate your files, and then tap on the .odt or .ods file you want to view (see Figure A).
Figure A

Here you see the welcome page, which offers some help and a road map of where the application is heading.

With the Copy function, it’s very possible to get around the fact that there’s no way to edit an ODF document. Here’s how you go about this task:

  1. Open up the ODF document of choice
  2. Tap the menu button in the top right corner
  3. Tap Copy to open the Copy menu bar at the top (see Figure B)
  4. Tap Select all
  5. Tap Copy

Figure B

The Select all button can be finicky. You may have to play with exactly where you need to tap to get this to work correctly.

Now that you have the text copied, you can go to an app like Google Docs, paste the text into a new document, and edit away. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s one that works.


You could go the converter route. For that, I found a stellar application called File Converter for only $2.99 (USD). It’s one of the best in breed for document converters for the Android platform and can convert the following:

  • Documents: Convert to Word, Flash, HTML, Open-Office, PDF, Text
  • Audio: Convert to AAC, AIFF, FLAC, M4A, MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA
  • Ebooks: Convert to ePub, FB2, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PDF, TCR
  • Images: Convert to BMP, EPS, GIF, EXR, ICO, JPEG, PNG, SVG, TGA, TIFF, WBMP, WEBP
  • Archives: Convert to 7Z, TAR BZ2, TAR GZ, ZIP

File Converter does a great job with all of the above formats (converting to and/or from). One word of warning: The app uploads and downloads files to a server, so there could be data charges. Here’s the process:

  1. Purchase and install File Converter from the Android Market
  2. Open the app from the app drawer
  3. From the main page (see Figure C), tap the type of document you want to covert
  4. In the new window, select both Source and Convert To and tap Continue
  5. On the final screen, you can preview your selections and then tap Start to begin the process

Figure C

There are numerous conversions handled by this application.

Once you’ve started the process, the file will be uploaded to the servers, converted, and then downloaded back to the device. The converted file will then be saved in the same location as the original (there’s no way to change that destination).

Once the conversion is complete, you can opt to send or share the file. Tap the Send/Share button, and then tap Share it. When you do, a new window will appear where you can select to share the file via:

  • Bluetooth
  • Dropbox (if installed)
  • Email
  • Gmail

Make your choice, and complete the process with the chosen application. Once you’ve got your document converted, you should be able to open the file in an editor like QuickOffice and get your work done.

I did an interesting test to convert an .odt file to a Flash .swf file. It worked perfectly! The newly created file could be viewed within a browser window without any problems.

While it would be a considerable advantage to many users if Android had the ability to natively edit ODF documents, at least there are ways to convert and work with these files while on the go. What other applications have you used for viewing and/or editing ODF documents? Share you experience in the discussion thread below.