Converting Word to Word Perfect (and vice versa)

by Loui Tucker

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Converting documents from Word Perfect to Word or vice versa is a problem that has been around for decades, since the first versions of these two pieces of software were created. I doubt the problem will resolve itself any time soon. The two software programs are becoming better at reading and converting the various formatting features, but there will always be difficulties. It is best to be aware of the issues and solutions involved.

Newer is better. The more recent your software programs are (Word or Word Perfect), the better the results. Earlier versions of Word did a terrible job converting all but the very simplest Word Perfect file and even now will sometimes not open complex documents at all. If possible use parallel versions. In other words, don't use a new version of Word Perfect and try to convert using a very old version of Word.

Simple is best. Text is not the issue, it's the formatting. If you can trim your document down to the bare essentials, conversion of text in either direction is clean. Formatting that should be stripped out, if possible, include:
   •   All but the simplest headers and footers
   •   All but the simplest numbering schemes
   •   Graphics
   •   Watermarks

You can always re-insert graphics and headers and footers and the like in your target program. By the way, you don't HAVE to do this step, but the conversion will be cleaner if you do. Leave your original around where you can find it. You may want to try converting it in all its formatted glory, just to see what happens.

Pre-convert if you can. Both programs allow you to "Save As" and convert the document on your screen to a version of the other program. Ideally, you should save the file in a version that is closest to the one you'll want to read it in. When you start the File, Save As routine, just change the box below the file name to the target program. The file name will stay the same, and the file will be saved in the same folder as the original, but the file extension (the three letters after the period) will usually change automatically. You can also try converting to a .txt file.

I usually pre-convert and then try opening both the original document and the converted in the target program, as well as sometimes trying the unstripped and unconverted version. You never know what kind of results you'll get until you try. Occasionally I find that the pre-converted version isn't any better than the unmodified version, and there additional problems were created during the pre-conversion.

Paste Simple (Word Perfect) and Paste Special (Word). Under the Edit-Paste function are these two variations. If all you other attempts to convert your document fail, try them. They allow you to strip out *ALL* the formatting and leave you with raw text. Then you can format the document, add back in the headers and footers, bolding and underscoring, etc. It's not the best solution, but it usually beats retyping the document. By the way, this feature also works well if your copying and pasting text from the web or an email.

Large quantities. If you're doing a wholesale move from one program to the other and you have years of computer files, most specifically forms and templates, you may want to find yourself a local firm that does conversions. Try doing an Internet search for a firm in your area. Some charge by the file, others charge by the megabyte of data. You select and copy your documents to disks or CDs and the converted documents come back to you on the same media.

Another option, if the quantity is smaller, is to work with an individual like me, who knows the kinds of work you do (law, architecture, real estate, secretarial, accounting, public relations, etc.) and who would be willing to convert specific files over a period of time, as you need them. I have a lot of clients I've never seen or visited because our exchanges are done exclusively over the Internet on projects such as this!

Never give up! Keep trying various options. Contact me. Contact other Word and Word Perfect professionals. It is extrememly rare that a document cannot be converted at all.

Tips and Tricks by Loui Tucker
Supporting Word Perfect, Word, Timeslips, Abacus, TimeMatters
and many other software packages used in today's law offices.

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