OpenOffice text file unreadable
January 13, 2017 12:37 PM   Subscribe

A few years ago, I created an OpenOffice doc that is now unreadable. Is there a way to find out how, or how to read it?

This .odt file was text, with no inserted images or tables. I think it was 10-odd pages, but what it is now is a pile of hashed gibberish of about 81 pages. When I click on it, it prompts me to choose a language encoding, but none of the English options I choose will make it legible. I have tried opening it in OpenOffice and Word 2016.

This file was about *~emotions~* and thus was super sensitive to me at the time. I think I might have encrypted it somehow when I made the transfer of my files to a new PC, but how? It doesn't prompt for a password or anything. What would I have done? Could it be undone? It's not worth a professional intervention, so if it's gone, it's gone, but I'm curious.
posted by Countess Elena to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
Maybe you've tried this already, but did you tried opening the raw file in a text editor (like TextWrangler, if you have a Mac)? Sometimes files in old formats will still open fine in a text editor and show the original text, albeit with lots of gremlins & gibberish embedded alongside the text.
posted by mark7570 at 12:40 PM on January 13, 2017

Could you post an excerpt of the gibberish?
posted by dilaudid at 1:01 PM on January 13, 2017

Try opening it in 7zip or something similar to see if it is a compressed file.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's more of a Word hack, but rename the file to whatever. zip and open it with an unzip program.
posted by notsnot at 1:10 PM on January 13, 2017

Thanks, mark7570 and It's Never Lurgi, I hadn't thought of those things! I appreciate your help, although I haven't had success.

I tried opening it with SublimeText in several encodings, but in all encodings it's gibberish, unless it's hexadecimal, in which case it's gibberish encoded in hexadecimal.

I tried opening it with 7Zip, but the program refuses -- says it's "not an archive."

dilaudid, when opened in ASCII/US, it looks more or less like this: ‰¾\\\\¾#w#:#IRú+ and with rows and rows of hashes after that.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:03 PM on January 13, 2017

Have you tried opening it in an actual hex editor? What's in the file header?

If it's an ODT file, the right column (or its equivalent in your hex editor of choice) should begin by displaying something like:


posted by Bangaioh at 3:49 PM on January 13, 2017

openoffice / libreoffice may be failing to recognize an old format (though i have never known it to do that). as a last ditch, you could download the version of openoffice from that time and see if it recognizes it. odf should look like an xml doc. if you encrypted it, you'd need to know what you used, and it looks like there isn't a header telling you.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:46 AM on January 15, 2017

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