Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What to do, lazyweb?

My dad, brother, and sister run Ubuntu at my dad's house. They use OpenOffice for writing their papers and such, but almost every time, my brother and sister say that the teacher got onto them and docked points for using too big of spacing, or margins aren't right, or some minute detail that apparently Microsoft Word handles differently. My dad has emailed the teachers saying that they use a different office suite than the teachers are using and that my siblings are technically following the teachers orders (double spacing, X-sized margins, etc...), but that hasn't seemed to help. The teachers are less than apathetic towards my siblings and still dock points for things like this. This doesn't seem like it would be legal, but I don't want to go there (docking points for something that is out of the students control).

They are running Hardy and have OOo 2.6 iirc. Are these known issues in OOo? Apparently, the double spacing in OOo isn't the same as in Word... Has anyone had problems like this with teachers? How did they resolve them? Would it help to install the 3.0 beta?


  1. I'm not sure what the requirements are, but could they save (export) their homework as pdf? Maybe not ideal, but at least the rendering will be correct and maybe it will help get the point across about Word being the problem.

  2. i go ahead and export the document to PDF and hand in both documents to my teachers so that they can see that i have indeed made the formatting the way they asked for.

  3. Hmmm... difficult one. Perhaps it is better to seek clarification on the requirements. After all, MS cannot settle on one file format, so why are the teachers? What I mean is: if the requirement is for MS Word 2003, then the school should be prepared to sponsor such a thing for each and every student, and supply them with a PC capable of running this if they don't already have one. We know that isn't going to happen. So, if the requirement is for "correct spacing", whatever that is, then maybe that should be produced by the teachers in a list of specifications. OOo can match Word for these; if not better it.

    Sometimes it is best to get political, and take it up the chain of command. Maybe the Principal or Board of Governors have some reason for their adherence to pedantics; root that out and everyone can breath easy and get on with being creative.

    My 2c.

  4. To clarify on the requirements and how they are turning in the papers. The are turning in printed papers. I have checked by comparing both OOo and Word with double spacing and OOo is indeed larger spacing when it comes to double spacing, which is how (almost) all teachers require papers here to be turned in. If it isn't what they perceive to be proper double spacing, then the points are being docked off. IIRC, the 1.5 spacing in OOo is closer to the double spacing in Word.

    @combatwombat: You bring up a good point, I will have to think about that.


    That article might help explain the situation with OOo. It's a lot more complicated than I thought!

  6. Do the different versions of MS Office (97/2000/2003/2007) even format exactly the same?

  7. Yes, the spacing issue is known. I think Word gets 25 lines and OOo gets 22 lines per page. If you set spacing in OOo to 190% instead of 200% (double), it'll match Microsoft Word.

  8. That would be using the "Line Spacing: Proportional" setting with 190% in the little box next to it.

    And by it being known, I mean I've heard it before and seen that advice offered.

  9. Stuff like this gets me going. 190%? If measuring with a ruler agrees, then your papers are correctly spaced, and everyone else is wrong!

    Especially if this is a public school, there is some kind of complaint system in place for curriculum items. If you don't feel like dealing with a major school official, the librarian could be a big help (if the apathy isn't so intrenched).

    But please do the homework. That is, get the specifications, and get samples of papers -- both yours and one that is "correct" according to the teacher. Then get advice from someone who knows such things. If you don't have an old-school secretary or typography nut available, then scan them in and post them to us, your lazyweb for feedback.

    OpenOffice started out as a German university project, if I recall correctly. The first time I used StarOffice, many years ago, it wasn't even fully translated. Perhaps the conversion from metric has a few bugs in it.

    Would be interesting to see if another free word processor's defaults more closely matches what the teachers expect. (Btw, I'm an Abiword fan.) Give the lazyweb a chance, and we all may help to tweak an OpenOffice template to perfection.

    This takes some work on your part to get this together, to be sure. But I'm willing to bet that your brother and sister are not the only ones in the US with this same situation.

  10. I wonder if it would help to upload the document to google docs and then let save it from there as a .doc. May help ... may not.

  11. Submit the papers in LaTeX with a full copy of the source, that would be awesome. Just kidding.

    Have you seen how doing it in Abiword looks? Maybe it looks closer.

  12. If you're not using the Liberation Serif font, you might want to try that also. It is supposed to be 100% size compatible with Times New Roman, and generally works pretty well for me.

  13. yes, the spacing issue is known. I think Word gets 25 lines and OOo gets 22 lines per page. If you set spacing in OOo to 190% instead of 200% (double), it'll match Microsoft Word.
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