Microsoft Word 2007 file format – the same bad old tricks

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.
Office Logo

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


  1. this is some joke, had a call from a friend in a panic the other day, she was working with office 2007 beta trial (God knows why) and now she cant open it in anything, i tried google apps also, no joy….

    Microsofts ‘force people to upgrade’ is getting beyond a joke!

  2. John,

    If you download the link on item number 3 , it should solve the problem – can open *and *save Office 2007 formats as far back as Word 2000.

    Not a lot of publicity (yet) from Microsoft about it, aside from ‘heres the technical details of the new format’


  3. My husband is taking a college credit class that is using Word 2007. We downloaded the Miscrsoft compatible pack and he was able to open and work in it fine with our 2003 version. The problem occured when he tried to open it again in class with the 2007 version. The instructor had a hard time getting it open and said “Well, I’ve learned something new today.” That can’t be good!

  4. Hi!

    Thanks for the update. I was desperate to open my Word 2007 files and didn’t know it had compatibility issues! My coml uses the 2003 version. Good thing I googled it and found your site to be helpful!! You saved me my job!

  5. I am using Windows 2007 under Windows Vista, but defaulting to the Windows 97-2003 format. Even so, I am getting clients who are unable to open Word files on their system. We cannot seem to work out why, but what we do know is that the problem is not universal – the same mail out will be a problem for some users, and not for others.

  6. Michael,

    Not sure if I’ve had *that* problem before.

    In general when I’m sending files, I do so as PDF (I think it looks more professional). For Docs that need to edited , I tend to use Google Docs online.

    Generating PDF from Word is easy – either use the free OpenOffice ( , or the shareware PDF995 (


  7. I want to convert one word file in 2007 version to word file 2003 version. Or anyhow, I can read this file (word 2007)in my computer uses word 2003 version

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