If you’ve purchased Microsoft Office recently, you got version 2007 (unless you’re on a Macintosh). Office 2007 represents a “great leap forward” according to some (in Microsoft marketing), but from my perspective, it’s a lot of change, and a lot higher system requirements for not a lot of new, useful features.
One of the “feature” of Office 2007 is the new document format. Like previous versions of office, this latest version uses a format that older versions cannot read. This makes perfect sense on two levels. The file format was made after the older versions were released, so they didn’t know about it, so they can’t read it. Also, from a sales perspective, it makes sense because if Alice runs Office 2007 and Bob runs Office 2003, Bob must then upgrade to Office 2007 to read Alice’s documents.
Or must Bob? While sales would love to have you think this is the case, it’s not. First off, if you are using Office 2007, and you know the recipient of your document is using an older version, you can save your document in the older format.
- Click the Office logo-thingy in the upper left (where the thing we call the “File Menu” used to live).
- Click Save As…
- When the dialog box opens, you will notice a “Save as type” menu, where you can choose from a variety of file types to save.
Alice could also tell Microsoft Office 2007 to save all documents in an earlier format. This is by far the simplest, most compatible route to take and, in my experience, almost no one does this. But that’s no excuse! So let’s run through this really quickly. We’ll use Microsoft Office Word 2007 as an example.
- Open Word.
- Click the Office logo-thingy in the upper left.
- Click Word Options.
- Click Save.
- Under “Save files in this format” choose “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)”
- Click OK
Now, by default, Microsoft Word 2007 will save in the older, more common Word 2003 format. If you have Office 2007 Service Pack 2 installed and want to be even more compatible, and more progressive at the same time, you could choose to save documents in the OpenDocument Text format (ODT). ODT is the main format supported by OpenOffice.org
, a free, open-source
alternative to Microsoft Office. In fact, you could very likely replace Microsoft Office with OpenOffice and save money while you’re at it, but that’s a topic for another article.
If you use an older version of Microsoft Office (like Office XP or Office 2003), and someone sends you a document created with a later version of the software, you can download the Office Compatibility Pack
. This program allows you to open newer format files in older versions of the software. You must have administrative rights over your PC to install it, and if you are on a corporate network, you should speak to your IT staff about getting this program deployed to all PCs running older versions of the software so that they can access these newer files.