Software

Backward compatibility problems have long plagued Microsoft Office users

Office 2007 and the introduction of the OpenXML file format has created all sorts of headaches when it comes to backward compatibility with previous versions. Here's a classic tip from April 2000 which shows that this is a long standing problem and how to get around it.

With every new version of Office, Micrsoft keeps doing things to 'improve' the product. Mostly these are in the form of new features like Office 2007's ribbon, which is supposed to make it easier to use, but just gets in the way.

One of the things that Microsoft used to change a lot was the default file format. For a few years, every new version of Microsoft Word or Excel had a new file format which was only semi-compatible with the previous one. Microsoft seemed to use file format compatibility as a way to force-march people into upgrading to the newest version of Office.

Things had stabilized somewhat after the introduction of Office 2000 through Office 2003. However, this TechRepublic Word TechMail Tip from April 28, 2000 shows how long the problem has been around and how you could get around it:

WORD TIP TECHMAIL

-----------------------------------------

Today's Word Tip

SPECIFYING FILE COMPATIBILITY

As different versions of Word have been released over the years, there

are noticeable differences in the way text layout and formatting

appear. Sometimes it's necessary to make changes to an existing

document so that it emulates the formatting of a previous version of

Word. Having this ability makes viewing these types of documents

easier. The changes you make aren't permanent, so you can change things

back to the old display if you need to.

1. Open the document.

2. Go to Tools | Options | Compatibility.

3. Click on the Font Substitution button to substitute non-supported

fonts with supported ones, and click OK.

4. Choose the version of Word you want to emulate from the Recommended

Options For drop-down list.

5. Enable the appropriate check boxes in the Options list to select any

additional desired display aspects.

6. Click OK.

Today we get to deal with compatibility problems between Office 2007 and previous versions. Office 2007 is supposed to be able to open standard 2003 and previous files, but you still have font problems occasionally. If you're using an older version of Office, you can download the Compatibility Pack which is supposed to make OpenXML documents work in Office 2003, but it's kind of a hit and miss affair.

26 comments
unhappyuser
unhappyuser

I will give them that MS finally went in the right direction this time with this version of Office BUT, that said, they have a LONG ways to go before they're credible in my book. EMD

xavierbasora
xavierbasora

John: The answer is no. What's obsession that Ms has to turn perfectly skilled user to novics each time a new version comes out. We enrich MS at the expense of our productivity. Further, it bugs me a lot that none of the reviews of MS office in the computer magazines ever bother to mention this shortcoming. Yet those same magazines don't hesitate to bestow Editor choice awards and other accolades.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Apparently, my corporate office has converted to MS Office 2007. We have been receiving Office 2007 .xlsx and .docx files as email attachments. Unfortunately, none of the distributed techs has the software. My stock response is "The office software on my corporate laptop does not support Microsoft Office 2007 file formats. I have been advised by corporate IT that it will not be upgraded. Please save the file in MS Office 97/2000 format and retransmit." I don't think it's sinking in. I still get irritated responses asking me "Why can't you use the file I sent you?"

j-mart
j-mart

Often this applies to other successful software products as well. Usually one or two versions along from the first offering some of these products are going along nicely, just the tool you may have been looking for, every one is happy. Then the company who produced the product are stuck with the problem that it is now hard to make it better so they resort to cosmetic tinkering that does little to the performance and functionallity to try and create the ilusion that you need to upgrade to improve productivity etc. In the case of MS Office has the product improved significantly from Office 97 in terms of productivity and performance. "97" did the job well "2007" is not that different at a functional level

Tearat
Tearat

Well I may as well get in before the idiots who insist that you're all afraid of change start up Does anyone want to offer opinions as to what motivates those clueless morons? So here we go You people are just afraid of change This is the same thing that has happened in the past Its just people being stupid This is all FUD It's just the same annoying crap that happened when office 2003 came out This is just MS Bashing (Like I believe any of that) I encourage you all to add everything else I have not covered to this thread of the discussion Maybe if it's all said before the clueless ones find this discussion They just may give it a miss and we can have a real discussion about the topic And hopefully help someone with who is having these type of problems with office I would also like to suggest that we create a standard type of document That can be placed at the start of any discussion that involves MS Office or Windows (May have to use open office so we can still use it in the future) But personally I will be waiting to see how long it takes the clueless ones to arrive Good luck Guys

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

In my opinion, the worst was moving from Off 97 to 2k. Too many frequently used items were moved around, buried, and not added to the default list. This made lots and lots of support calls for 'how do I' and then installing the needed files. I think the smoothest transition was Off2k to Off03. Office 07 brings the old headache back but for different reasons. Just trying to find the drop down lists, one can spend plenty of time. Normally I would tell someone to use the 'help', but they need to know how to find the help now as well. After a little use, the new Office can be nice and friendly, however, users will need some basic training before jumping into it (unless they are more competent users). Just my opinion

faradhi
faradhi

I think it is more intuitive and makes common functions easier to find and use. As for the compatibility pack, I have yet to find a document that did not open with the compatibility pack installed. I will concede that yet is the key word here and that I may have a problem down the line.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

As I noted in the latest post on Classics Rock: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=126 every time Microsoft revs Office, it seems to add new 'features' with dubious benefits, along with minor incompatibilities which create additional support headaches. Microsoft long used file format incompatibility to encourage users to upgrade. That tip showed how to get around compatibility problems, but the real question is, should we have to put up with that every time Microsoft revs Office?

jdclyde
jdclyde

What is the right direction you speak of? Thanks

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

MGP2 made basically the same point about the Ribbon as well. It's all well and good for Microsoft to try and make Office 2007 easier to use by creating this feature, but it's a completely different thing to undo years of user training by not including the option to go back to a default Office 2003 look and feel. They give the same option in Vista to allow it, Windows XP, Windows 2000 and Windows 98 to use essentially the same interface, so why not an Office Classic interface as well? Of course the whole point of the initial post was to talk about how Microsoft uses file formats to force march people into upgrading to the newest versions of their software.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I require my students to submit the written portion of their tests in Word 2003 format. I post it in 2007. They get a big honkin' 0 if they don't return it in 03 format. They start out po'd about it, but by mid-term they are usually fine with it as they have discovered none of their friends are using 07 and can't open the attachments they send. keyboard gremlins

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

If there's a reason to make a change, then it should be made and be embraced. The OpenXML format promises some good change, and in some cases it delivers. It creates smaller file sizes and it's a little more portable than the traditional DOC file format. The Ribbon as well is easier to use - but only if you never have used Office before. Experienced Office users wind up poking around figuring how to do things and relearning old tricks which is counter-productive. Not to mention the fact that to do a lot of the new things in the Ribbon, you've got to take your hands off the keyboard, where a few key commands would do the same thing. Changing file format confuses users when they get documents they can't open. Or they cant figure out how to save documents so other people *can* open them. Changing interfaces is bad when users who can barely use the software to begin with have to completely relearn things. Both of those things are the truth. It's not bashing someone when you tell the truth about them.

mark.hopgood
mark.hopgood

How it works for us. Microsoft releases a new version of Word, with a new file format. A few of these new documents get emailed around by early adopters and we either get the sender to resave in a previous format, or if they are a customer, we install the compatiblity upgrade. Then after a while in our meetings we discuss this and start to feel inadequate because we haven't got the latest version. We believe it will make our business better, so we upgrade. We make money out of problem solving and selling Microsoft solutions, so the increased amount of time we bill in supporting this is good for business. And so it goes on, version after version.

MGP2
MGP2

As far as I'm concerned, that's a minor issue. What I really can't stand is that damned new ribbon/menu. For YEARS, we got used to the classic menu. Then they yank it out from under us. It wouldn't be so bad if they'd provided a config option, so we "seasoned veterans" of the classic menu could have our version, and anyone who wants to be ribbonized could have their version.

Tearat
Tearat

We don?t want people going around in circles Mind you some of the discussions seem to do that pretty well

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

They do that rather well, don't they? ;)

RFink
RFink

You're teaching them in '07 but require them to use '03 format? If my kid received a zero for that I'd be talking to the principal. What's the logic in that?

Tearat
Tearat

The MS Bashing was meant to be part of the list of things I don?t believe My bad I have fixed it Thanks for the Blog which is NOT MS bashing

jdclyde
jdclyde

As people are to the point that they see there is nothing wrong with their existing systems, and are not willing to throw away their existing investment just because something new is out.

jdclyde
jdclyde

After years of teaching community ed classes, where "working professionals" that don't have the time or desire of an academic class that goes for 15 weeks, I would teach them the same in four 8 hour sessions. And 98% were clueless about directory structure and file types. I spent the first 30 minutes of the session going over the file sturcture and file types. "It doesn't matter how good your file is, if you can't find it". - jd B-) I also see it here at work, where we send and recieve attachments to people outside of our company. Anyone from the bank, a vendor, or a customer. Once that whole "reality" thing kicks in, you realize in this modern work environment, it is rare to deal strictly in house.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

lol You have no idea how many students don't know 'save as' until they get to me. I usually do at least one special session in a semester in which I teach them 'Save as' along with how to 'Save as' TO where. If I don't they can never find their homework, forget to rename it from the default, etc... They are amazed that they can do some of those 'Save as' things. And I am amazed that it never occurs to many of them to simply click on things to see what might happen. Especially using campus computers that they don't have to worry about 'breaking'. :D

jdclyde
jdclyde

[b][u]SHE[/u][/b] understands that school is getting students READY for the real world. In your way of thinking, it would just feed to the existing problem of the clueless masses that never learned something as simple as "save as" because their [b]INSTRUCTORS[/b] failed to prepare them for [b]THE REAL WORLD.[/b] NOW do you see why they should be learning it in school? You don't wait until they are out of school to teach them how things are in the real world.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

If what you learn in the classroom can't be applied to the real world, what is the point of spending any time in class? My students are in class to improve their skills and their job options. The real world has not exactly embraced Office 2007. In the real world, my students need to know how to save Office 07 documents in earlier Office formats.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

and the logic is that they need to know how to save in previous formats. Duh. I didn't say anything about 'using '03 format'. I said that they are required to submit what is originally an 07 Word document as an 03 Word document. These are Office Technology classes and the students are earning AAS in Office Management and the like. Textbook content requires that they learn how to save in previous formats. They get into the real world and have to test in the Office Suite for a job, and maybe part of that test requires them to save in previous formats. If I didn't enforce them learning how, they don't know how, they don't get job. What is so difficult about understanding that? Thank God my students are adults and I don't have to deal with parents lacking in foresight.

RFink
RFink

Not everyone has the latest and greatest. In a classroom teaching '07 I don't understand him requiring '03. If everyone in the class has '07 then the real world arguement doesn't apply. If it's a mixed class then the school has a problem, not the students.

jdclyde
jdclyde

It is the pinnacle of stupidity to assume that everyone else you will do business with has run out and thrown money to MS to make sure they have the most recent word processor. I see this all the time, and it is GREAT that someone out there has the intelligence enough to teach people about the file type.

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