Office Format Converters

Category: Software

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?

Microsoft Office 2007

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 Format

Office 2007: Save files in old format If 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.

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Most recent comments on "Office Format Converters"

Posted by:

Scott Strehlow
29 Jun 2007

NeoOffice is the native Mac interface port of the OpenOffice.Org office product. It has full support for opening and saving the Office 2007 compressed XML files.

Posted by:

George Parks
29 Jun 2007

Good article. How about the other conversion that a lot of us need--35mm slides to jpgs?? What are the best scanners for this? Are there commercial services that will do it for you? Is it best to scan the slides in their cardboard frames or take them out so they're flat on the scanner? The list goes on. I think that a lot of us old guys have tons of slides sitting around that we'd like to convert. Thanks and keep up the good work!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: From what I've read, you need a special scanner made for scanning transparent slides. Your best bet may be a service bureau, so check with your local print or photo shop, or pick one of the many that are online. Here's some additional info:

Posted by:

31 Aug 2007

I am using Office 2007 and saved a document in the Word 97 - 2003 format (.doc) as I had to email it to a non-Office 2007 user .

However, when I went to edit/re-use that document for another purpose, I can open it but can't view it )it is just pages of junk) or convert it. The Help file (unhelpfully) claims to simply open the document and hit the 'Convert' button in the main MS Office menu....I don't *have* a convert button!!! Have looked everywhere. Have even reinstalled Office. It also doesn't go into compatibility mode when I open the doc (which the Help file also states). Can't find any info anywhere to explain why it is missing or how I can add in this phantom Convert button. Anyone seen this??

EDITOR'S NOTE: Perhaps the file was damaged. How about the person that you sent the file to -- can they open it? If so, have them send a copy back to you.

Posted by:

20 Sep 2007

My stepsons homeschool only accepts essays and papers in .rtf. format. We had to get a new computer and load office 2007. Is there any clear way to convert so they can accept or do I just need to go find an older version of office?

Posted by:

05 Aug 2008

i am having set of xlsx and pptx files, need to convert those to xls and ppt. I have downloaded and installed office compatibility pack, and tried converting the xlsx file to xls in command line.

c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12>excelcnv -oice c:\xl.xlsx c:\xl.xls

it gives out a xl.xls but its just the copy of my input xlsx file when i open that file in the office 2000 it gives error.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You should be able to open them in PowerPoint or Excel, then use Save As to convert them to the older PPT/XLS format.

Posted by:

07 Oct 2008

Does anyone know anything about the Office 2007 upgrade? I am working overseas on Office 07 but in the local language. Can I buy the US upgrade and have that change the default language or do I have to spend way too much money for the Full version? Thanks

EDITOR'S NOTE: That's something I wouldn't know unless I had tried it. Can you change your current system to English first, then install the US upgrade?

Posted by:

03 May 2009

Hi, this is great, but could you update this article with how to change the New Document formats when you right-click on the Desktop and select:

-> New -> New Word Documet


-> New -> New Excel Document

These still default to creating .docx and .xlsx documents ! If I want Office 2003 to be my default save format as you explain above, this becomes quite frustrating when I am creating new documents, so a complete solution should hopefully alter those New Document formats as well.

If you (or anyone else reading this !) have a solution for this, that would be greatly appreciated !!

EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't understand your question. The article specifically addresses the NEW document formats.

Posted by:

05 Feb 2010

With Office XP installed on a Laptop running WinXP SP3, may I ADD Office 2007 or must I remove the current Office XP versions of the programs? (i.e. can I have both versions installed? Do I have to install ALL of the Office 2007 programs such as Outlook or can I stick w/ the one I have and just install Word2007 and Excel2007, without removing the current XP version of Word and Excel?
What is your advice?

Posted by:

amjad pervaiz
21 Aug 2011

sir i have saved some files in office 2003 and now also saved some files in office 2007 but when i need to oppen the files not opend pl resolve this problem pl.

Posted by:

13 May 2013

My sister has Microsoft Works Word Processor. She had this since 2008. Now she can't open any of her files. Does any one out there know how to fix this?

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Office Format Converters (Posted: 28 Jun 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved