If you are looking for a way to convert your "closed" and Microsoft-owned document files into an open-standard file format like .RTF (Rich Text File format) or OpenDocument - OpenOffice .SSX, or even into the Adobe PDF file format, here is a free and completely web-based solution to your need.
Photo credit: Trisha Shears
This solution works even in total absence of Microsoft Office / Word on the computer you have access to, and allows many individuals or organizations which have decided not to standardize their basic applications on Microsoft Office to easily and freely convert incoming or pre-existing document files coming from Microsoft Word into a true open format file or into a standard PDF file.
The conversion takes place in real-time and the converted file is immediately available for download.
The unknown little free service which makes all of this possible is called DocTransformer and is part of the Pisa municipality site in Italy.
I serendipitously discovered the service 48 hours ago thanks to Livia Iacolare (a young and passionate new media researcher who has just applied to my internship program), whose delicious account I was browsing to learn more about her tastes and preferences.
The web-based service allows anyone, independently of their computer type or operating system (PC, Mac and Linux all OK) to upload a document file and to have it freely converted to PDF, RTF or to the OpenOffice Write document format.
Nonetheless the service is all in Italian, it is so easy to use and unintimidating that, with the help of two or three screenshots I can easily walk you through, if it ever was needed.
Here is what to do to make it work:
1) Head to the DocTransformer page.
2) Click "Accetta" (Approve).
Here you are only approving the fact that the Municipality of Pisa holds no responsibility on the documents uploaded into the conversion engine and that the files uploaded will not be stored or archived beyond the time needed for the conversion.
3) Select from your hard disk the document file you want to be converted and then click "Continua".
4) Select the type of file format you want to convert to between RTF, OpenOffice Write or PDF. Then click "Continua" again.
5) Click on the "Ricevi file" at the button right to download the newly converted file to your computer.
At any point you can click on "Inizio" (Start) or "Indietro" (Back) to start again the whole sequence or to go back and correct anyone step.
Note also that uploaded document files are kept on the Provincia di Pisa server only for five minutes and then are automatically deleted.
The service provided by the municipality of Pisa appears to have been developed by Acme Solutions, an IT services company based in Rome (but on whose site there is a lot of glossy Flashy looks but little tangible facts and info).
In case you need to do the exact opposite, I strongly suggest you to give a look to "How to Convert PDF to DOC, PDF to XLS, PDF to HTML or Text" where you can find full answer and tools to your need.