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I think you might have forgotten what it's like to be in school. If the instructor wants a doc file, you do not send a pdf. If something like spacing, margins, or anything else is off they're probably not going to cut you slack for using openoffice or accept that different word processors are going to produce different results. Especially when you're the only one in class who seems to have trouble with it. Now, I 'was' able to do all my papers in openoffice. But I can see why someone might be nervous about it.
I know exactly what you feel. In some situations, having 90% compatibility is almost just as bad as having 0% compatibility. IMHO, one has to live with the fact that sometimes you just can't use the tools you prefer. If you try to make do with bad compatibility you end up hating the not-quite-compatible FOSS application, when it may be a great tool on its own if you remove the strict format compatibility requirement. It's a good thing to raise awareness about alternatives, but you have to keep your marks and then your job.
I most appreciate OO's compatibility with MS Office when importing documents, but AFAIK, completely seamless interaction between the two office suites is just not possible at the moment.
Yep I got bit by that one, funny thing is I was using Office 2003 at the time and they were using Office XP (no I didn't *want* to use 2003 but that was what they had on some of the systems at the time). Different versions of office don't always treat their own files the same, so that's an issue bigger than simply Openoffice's word compatibility. And don't even get me started on opening Office 2000-created files in 2007, that can be worse than OO in some cases, much worse. Same for office on the PC vs on the Mac, it can be a nightmare.
The thing is, even with a so-called standard document format, people have different ideas of what some of the features mean and how they behave. So I'm not sure we'll ever have 100% compatibility across office suites even with the same file formats. And then there's those that ignore the standard or deliberately use it differently to "add features."
"Perhaps things have changed. When I was in school we used a lot of dtf files and content was more important than file format."
Things have changed for school. Unfortunately they have also changed on the outside. When applying for a job, 95% of all companies/agencies want your resume emailed to them in MS Word Format. Sending them a PDF file is as good as never getting called for an interview. Ridiculous yes, however it is reality, at least here in the US. So in reality these day, sadly, format is more important than content to business.