Here’s the good news – Microsoft is using a new file format for Office 2007 , which is due out shortly. It’s fairly simple – just text with tags (aka XML), zipped up to make it smaller. For example a 5Mb Word file shrinks down to 10% of it’s size in the old format.
Here’s the bad news – Microsoft is up to the same old tricks in the hope of forcing people to upgrade to a newer version of office. The new format cannot be read by the versions of Word, Excel or Powerpoint that most people have installed on their machines. By default , the new version of Office saves in the incompatible format, so eventually most people will be pestered into buying the new copy just to save them the embarassment of having to ask
Can you send that file again, but save it as the older version of Word?
Not a line that I’d want to say to important client. A friend of mine finds himself in that predicament. How do you convert Office 2007 files into ones that Word 2000 / Word 2003 can read. So far I’ve tried the following to help him out.
- Used Google’s online Documents and Spreadsheets. No joy – which is surprising , given that the new format is (techically) easier to read. Perhaps something to do with software patents?
- Tried the excellent (and free) Office clone – OpenOffice. No joy – even more surprising given that Microsoft seems to have ripped off the idea for the new format from OpenOffice in the first place.
- I’m now trying the ‘Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack‘ which promises to solve the problem for older versions of Word.
Watch this space.
Number 3 (the pack from Microsoft) works. Even more importantly , it allows you to save into the new format. However , not everybody is going to know / be bothered to install this large (27mb) download.For a change this important, why isn’t it installed automatically as part of windows update?
I’ve only tried this for Microsoft Word, but it should be able to convert from Excel 2007 into Excel 2003 and Excel 2000 as well.
I expect OpenOffice and Google docs to catch up with this fairly shortly. That is , if they can get around the legal tricks that Microsoft are playing with the new format.