AbiWord seems fine with vanilla text. Opening a formatted MS Word document (even just headers with page numbers), however, results in a nightmare when the same document is reopened in MS Word.
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It will do. I believe that it is due to the fact that Microsfts formats are closed so it is hard to be compatible with them.
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Apparantly, AbiWord has no support for saving in native Word format (licensing issues, no doubt); when you save as .doc, the file is stored in Rich Text Format--which, needless to say, doesn't support all the formatting features that Microsoft Word has.
This is why I still use Word: it does have quite a few features that I actively use. OpenOffice.org comes close in feature set, but it's just way too sluggish. It may be physically smaller than Microsoft Office, but it "feels" a lot more bloated.
It stores mine in real Microsft Word formats.
AbiWord's .doc "export" is just RTF with a .doc extension.
If you drag a .doc file that was saved by AbiWord into Notepad, you'll see that it's actually stored as RTF data. Now drag a .doc saved by MS Word into Notepad, and you'll see the difference.
It has nothing to do with licensing issues, but rather the belief that true binary export is not worth the time or effort since RTF provides a suitable format for interchanging with Word (and other word processors, some of which only support RTF). I'm also not aware of any feature in MS Word that doesn't map into RTF; Microsoft frequently updates the RTF specification, usually in concert with new Word versions, which suggests, to me, an interest in providing seamless translation from Word's native format to rich text.
Portable AbiWord appears to have trouble importing a right-aligned tab from MS Word format. It changes them to center-aligned tabs.