Office Format Converters
I recently upgraded to Microsoft Office 2007, and I have a problem. When I save a document or spreadsheet in an Office 2007 program, other people cannot open it. It seems the file is incompatible with other versions of Office. Do they need a converter to open my files?
Office 2007: Why the New File Formats?
The march of progress has trampled yet another set of innocent bystanders... In their newest release of Microsoft Office, the nice folks in Redmond have changed the way that Office 2007 saves documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Files created with the Office 2007 versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint will not be compatible with older versions of Office software, and a converter will be required to open them.
The cynical might assume that Microsoft is trying to persuade people to spend hundreds of dollars to upgrade to Office 2007, but Microsoft claims a different motive. Apparently those old proprietary binary (non-human-readable) files were no longer able to meet the challenges of moving data between applications, standards-based computing, and playing nice with firewalls.
The plain-text "Open XML" format aims to solve those problems and allows any application that supports XML (even non-Microsoft ones) to access and manipulate data in the new file format. In the process, file sizes are reduced. That seems like a good thing, to the extent that Microsoft is embracing open standards and allowing other software products to interact with Office files more easily. Of course, Microsoft invented their own standard, as is their custom, instead of using the OpenDocument format that many other software vendors support. But I digress...
So, instead of the familiar DOC files for wordprocessing, XLS for Excel spreadsheets, and PPT for PowerPoint presentations, the default extensions for documents created in Word 2007, Excel 2007, and PowerPoint 2007 using the new file formats append the letter "x" and are DOCX, XSLX, and PPTX, respectively.
Office 2007 File Converters and Viewers
If you have Word 2007, and you want to share documents with people who have an older version of Word (or a different word processor) you have two choices. The first is to do nothing. Just keep cranking out your fancy new DOCX files, and tell your friends and colleagues to upgrade to Office 2007, install a converter, or get a viewer.
Users of Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003 can download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats, which will add the ability to open, edit, and save files using the new file formats. You'll have to make sure your Office software is up to date before installing the Compatibility Pack.
For those who just want to view or print Office 2007 files (no editing or saving), there are viewers available. The PowerPoint Viewer 2007 is a standalone viewer for files created by PowerPoint 97 through PowerPoint 2007. Both Word Viewer 2003 and Excel Viewer 2003 will allow you to view or print Word or Excel files, but they require the Compatibility Pack mentioned above.
Mac users should download the Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac software, which will enable you to convert Open XML files to a format that is compatible with Microsoft Office for Mac.
The docXConverter from Panergy also allows you to convert Office 2007 DOCX files to RTF (Rich Text Format), a standard format that is read by many other programs. This program is available for both Windows and Mac systems. I should also mention the OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-in for Office that will convert Office 2007's OpenXML files to OpenDocument format (ODF). ODF is backed by a consortium of industry leaders including IBM and Sun Microsystems, and is widely endorsed as a better standard for open document exchange.
Just be aware that these converters and viewers may not do a perfect job of rendering all aspects of an Office 2007 document. Some special formatting and images may not survive or look exactly as in the original. So it's best to compare the document in both versions to be sure nothing is missing or altered. Microsoft's website continues to provide updates on known problems and help files have been added to explain how to get updates and what known problems exist during conversion.
Option Two: Saving Files In The Old FormatIf you want to save people all the trouble of installing converters and viewers, you can tell Office 2007 apps to save the file in the old format. This can be done on a file-by-file basis, by selecting the Office 2003 option on the "Save As" dialog, or by changing a setting in each Office 2007 application that instructs it to save ALL files in the old format. To change this setting in Word 2007, click on the Office button in the upper left corner, click on "Word Options", click the "Save" tab, then select the .DOC option in the "Save files in this format" dialog.
I recommend that you change this setting in all your Office 2007 apps, until the majority of your contacts have switched over to Office 2007. Of course your workplace may have different needs, so if you exchange a lot of Office documents at work, check with the IT staff or help desk to see what they recommend.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 28 Jun 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Office Format Converters (Posted: 28 Jun 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved