Now and then, office-type documents need to be converted. The latex users have always been able to produce a variety of formats from the command line, but for the OpenOffice/LibreOffice users, manual labor has been the solution. That changes with unoconv. Now you can convert to most file formats directly from the command line.
Unoconv is handy for many tasks. I commonly use it to convert all documents in a directory to PDFs, or MS Office compatible formats for clients. The beauty of it is that these previously tedious tasks are now one-liners.
If you're on ubuntu or derivates (I'm on kubuntu) you can install unoconv from the command prompt:
$ sudo apt-get install unoconv
Having done that, you need to start the server half of unoconv.
$ unoconv --listener
Give this a few seconds to settle. It starts an instance of OpenOffice in the background which it ties into. To use this instance of OpenOffice for format conversion, now try the following:
$ unoconv -f pdf *.odp *.odt
This will convert all text documents and presentations to pdfs. There isn't much control in the process, but if you want the standard output, it is a great help.
When it comes to exporting to MS Office formats, you have slightly more control. You can, for instance, target the format doc, doc6 and doc95, meaning Word 97/2000/XP, Word 6.0 and Word 95 respectively.
The project is alive, so there is good hope to have the final glitches sorted out. The tool spits out a couple of scary warnings now and then, but the documents seem to turn out well.
The conversion is based entirely on OpenOffice's conversion, so the quality is what you know from there. Since the conversion is automatic, you might have to limit yourself at times. For instance, I've learned that not using the arrow connectors, but instead relying on lines, helps in odp to ppt conversion. Also, the ppts produced are not compatible with the very latest MS Office on Mac - but then you can create pdfs just as easy.
Johan Thelin is a consultant working with Qt, embedded and free
software. On-line, he is known as e8johan.
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