best bet may be to convince the powers that be that PDF is the best technology for the job
After a little more research, I came across iText, a PDF and RTF-file creation API. I think I can use the RTF generation to create a Doc-readable file that can then be edited using Doc and re-saved.
Anyone have any experience with iText, used in this fashion?
Bill, the POI and iText API are very similar from a programming perspective. I've worked with both in the past and found them both easy to use and well documented.
However I believe the formatting in RTF is limited compared to DOC. I don't know if you'll be able to implement the advanced features you are looking for (tables, inline images) without a decent amount of hassle, if at all.
With iText you gain the advantage of being able to switch between formats (RTF and PDF) with minor change to the code. If I remember correctly the content is laid out using the same calls and then set as PDF or RTF using a few lines of code.