You're not the only one who's stuck with MS Office -- I was at the MedNet confernce last week, and BioMed Central was discussing the same problem of submission format handling.
The good news is that work on the web conversion system has been progressing well, and we will be trialling the new software with a select number of journals very shortly.
The document-conversion part of this software uses the Docvert application (http://holloway.co.nz/docvert/
) with OpenOffice. It is a bit complex to set up, and we are hoping to provide the service to the general public (or at least, the OJS public) in the coming months.
If you're looking for reliable character conversion from Word to HTML (or XHTML), HTMLTidy has a word-2000 option (http://www.w3.org/People/Raggett/tidy/
) designed specifically for normalizing the symbols you describe. Much less work than manual search/replace.
Hope this helps, and stay tuned!
Open Journal Systems