Software

Convert Office 2007 files to a 2003 readable format

This quick tip is still one of the most popular Microsoft Office Blog posts, which begs the question: Are you still using Office 2003?

The following blog post was originally published in May 2007 and it remains one of the most popular blog posts I have written for TechRepublic. So, I thought instead of just revisiting the blog post, it might be a good time to ask just how many are still using Office 2003.

The tip is still valid if you are using Office 2003.

As adoption of Microsoft Office 2007 (Office 2010 now) becomes more prevalent, the likelihood that you will receive a document saved in the native Office 2007 format grows. If you and your organization are not quite ready to transition to Office 2007, you will still need to open files from clients, vendors, and partners. The Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats makes it possible for users of Office 2003 applications to open and edit Office 2007 documents.

The latest version of the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats can be downloaded for free from Microsoft.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

50 comments
steinar
steinar

why shange the format from ex, doc/xls to docx/xlsx??? Microsoft is like an unpredictable joke. Anyone triied open ofice???

mirgrok
mirgrok

We went through revision after revision of the Word program and they were mostly good improvements, but now they've gone and entirely revamped the program and took away the versatility with a 'our ideas for your layout are better than yours' attitude which drives me crazy. Stick with the older versions to keep your sanity and your creativity.

Ray Baker
Ray Baker

I am stuck using Office 2010 (home), 2003 and 97 at work. Its really fun keeping everything together. If I mail something I try to save it as 97.

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

What I most object to about Office 2007 is the fact that, if I want to generate documents in the new format, I have to use Office 2007 which means having to use the "Ribbon interface" which is a dreadfully inefficient system compared with the drop-down menu system in Office 2003 and earlier versions. MS made Office 2007 capable of creating files in the earlier formats but they didn't allow users to opt for the older user interface which, as I have to work with the wretched thing every day, is a MAJOR omission. On the subject of backward compatibility, storage is so cheap these days that Office 2007 should have produced documents in BOTH file formats so that users of Office 2007 could deal with the new format and any advantages it may have while Office 2003 and previous users could still read the old format version.

jimfreeman
jimfreeman

From personal experience, do not .docx items open with microsoft works without converting first. A-Z e-mails with .doc , xlx. etc just get sent back to sender with a request to send out again in a universally readable format

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

Some of the non-Microsoft Office Suites (eg.: Kingsoft) only support 2003 format output.

petremure
petremure

User digitrog and others here are right: it seems M$ is pushing the new Office suites, with new formats, while keeping the FileFormatConverters "sub rosa" purposedly, in order to stump compatibility with other Office Suites makers like OpenOffice etc., pushing them out of the market and making us switch to (buy) the new versions just to be up-to-date. It's just Big Bussiness in action!

AdminTechConsulting
AdminTechConsulting

Thanks Mark. This is amazing, and makes it clear to me why I have just recently installed Microsoft Office 2007 on two clients' computers. I didn't realize how many people are actually still using Microsoft Office 2003.

balamurugesh
balamurugesh

I think we should have default convertor when there is a need!

rupth
rupth

i have downloaded the converter file but it does not work at all. earlier i just run the file n use to wait for few minutes and the office 07 file could be opend. but now if i try to open the converter also i cant run it on my system. what is the problem .pls suggest.

cbosleeds
cbosleeds

Thank God for the compatibility pack - I was getting really tired of sending documents back to clients and having to ask for them in .doc format.

mcalenin
mcalenin

how can convert office 2007 file into office 2003 file format

lonelyboy_2007
lonelyboy_2007

i have a way to open word 2007 into word 2000 or 2003..YOu have to download Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats this Software.. if you install this software in your computer and then you can open it... Hasan....

mahesh_san
mahesh_san

Plz help in this that how can we convert ms-excel 2007 format file into ms-excel 2003 format.. i tried to open that but the file was full of ascii symbols.. Can any one help me on this ASAP

foringmar
foringmar

I have been thinking about this for some time. Word Document Format has never been internetional standard. It might never be although MS has applied for approval. There is however now a approved international standard for documents. The Open Document standard. If I ever get a Microsoft Office document I will ask the sender to send it again using internationally approved file format standard. Atleast as long as MSO file format has not been approved as international standard. And there is always also PDF. If the sender can't comply with either, the sender needs to get his or hers IT-department into shape.

CHaynes
CHaynes

If companies need backward compatibility there are two simple solutions: 1) Upgrade everyone at the same time - if it is a large company this will probably happen anyway with corporate licensing, if it is a small company why bother upgrading anyway - it only adds confusion and extra training costs. 2) If that isn't possible set up every Office 2007 system so that files are saved in a compatible format. You can select that format in preferences and use it every time. Office 2007 supports saving in formats compatible will versions back to 97. There really isn't an issue if companies have competent support staff install and configure things correctly.

david_scott
david_scott

I don't understand why they didn't make the files backwards compatible. Office 2003 users shouldn't need to install something in order to open 2007 files. This is ridiculous.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

when the members themselves set the OASIS technical agenda? Oh, and MS are members.

ViRiV
ViRiV

You are right, I really don't understand what all the fuss is about. New versions of software come out all the time, my company has 3 different versions of oracle and we have to use all 3 because of different applications. Say thanks to MS that they didn't ask you $50 for the patch. All it takes is 1 co-op student to package the patch in 1 day, 7 days for testing and change requests, 2 days to deploy patch to 5000 PCs. How hard was that? And that it using SMS (slow moving software).

shaun.walch
shaun.walch

all that you need to do id to save it in office 03 format

funnybroad
funnybroad

I was getting so confused and frustrated trying to get my mind wrapped around how the Office 2007 file formats and features are compatible with previous Office versions, that I finally bit the bullet and tested it up one side and down the other. I was relieved to discover that IT WASN'T ME BEING STUPID... BECAUSE THERE IS A GOOD REASON I was so confused!!! THE BEHAVIOR OF THE COMPATIBILTY TOOLS (Compatibility Mode, Compatibility Checker, Feature Refresh, and Compatibility Pack) IS SO DIFFERENT depending on the Application you're using, that it would be impossible to simply learn "how to handle compatibility in Office 2007". You have to learn how to handle compatibility in Word 2007, then re-learn how to handle it in Excel 2007, then re-learn how to handle it in PowerPoint 2007.... even if you're doing the same exact task, using the same exact features (or no features at all!) So, I put this presentation together to help others out there who are trying to help themselves (and their users) understand it: http://www.slideshare.net/funnybroad/office-2007-compatibility-mode-confusion Feel free to re-distribute... but be sure you test the scenarios in your own environment to be sure you are getting the same results!

bookkeeper
bookkeeper

If i was selling software and i was coming out with a new version every so often how would i make it sell. It's all about the money, first of all you don't make it backwards compatible so then you spread your new version out on the market and sooner or later it forces a lot of people to buy the new version just to keep up and do business with everybody else.

digitrog
digitrog

Quite simply Microsoft doesn't want anyone else to presently be able to make a wordprocessor which can read their files. Just the same as what once used to be an international standard - MS Word 6 . Windows XP cannot read their own format. Try to open a Word 6 Doc from office 2003, or even a win98SE wordpad doc from XP . WE, that is the humble PC user, Should revolt against this behemoth of a software producer and Stop using all their new releases ... instead of just being sheep following the goat to where we don't need to go ... [ well we could be hopeful ... ]

Ironspider
Ironspider

Open Word07 file, control-A, Control-C, open notepad, control-V, control-A, control-C, open word03 blank document, control-V. You'll find this works with many, many other Windows based text programs as well.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Office 2007 files use an XML format, which means that the files can hold more information more efficiently. In general, it is a good idea. Of course, being Microsoft they decided to use a non-standard, proprietary XML schema. That means that Office 2007 XML documents can't be read by Star Office for example. When the XML idea was first announced I envisioned universal open documents -- boy was I being silly.

Waldemar Axdorph
Waldemar Axdorph

I agree to 100% and still disagree because sometimes they have to renew the system and then there's going to be setbacks and arguments against it but in the end everybody will have settled down and started using the "new" system. I haven't tried the Office 2007 edition because I'm still running the Office 2003 edition, but I think it's pretty lame to force the Office 2003 and lower version users to install something in-order to be able to open that same document in a higher version of the program (i.e. Office 2007). I think/hope that they should/will make a patch or something like that to the 2007 version that automatically (or after user confirmation) converts the "older version"-file to the 2007 version so that you can read it. How? I don't know. I don't work at the Microsoft Office campus. I'm still in school :P

CHaynes
CHaynes

I just tried it and the update is no big deal. It is a small download which took me less than 1 minute to download and install. Presumably there is an admin install option so it can be applied to workstations automatically (though I didn't look for it). As well as adding the ability to open Office 2007 formats in earlier version it also adds the ability to save in the new formats in Office 2002 and 2003 (and I think 2000 but I didn't check that). I am not an MS apologist, and I deplore their current approach to almost everything they touch, but I really think MS can't win. If they release a new version of software without new features everyone complains and if they offer a new version with new features everyone complains. People just need to stop bellyaching about it. They clearly advertised the fact that Office 2007 will have new file formats (and there has been endless discussion about it all over the internet and ieven in the press). If people don't want the new formats it is is trivial to install Office 2007 to use older formats by default - though it strikes me as a bit pointless. At least they have produced an easy solution for users of older versions to remain compatible with the new file file formats - and it is free. My only criticism is that it isn't clearly signposted for Office 2003 (and earlier) users - surely it should be included in MS Update as, at least, an optional update ??

1611kjb
1611kjb

You are right, it is all about XML, but there is nothing proprietary about Microsoft's XML format. The new Microsoft formats (DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, etc.) is simply a ZIP file containing the XML and SCHEMA data for each XML package (just rename one of them with a ZIP extension and open it with a Zip reader and you can see the XML data). It uses all standard XML. The SCHEMAs are peculiar to the file format, but that's what SCHEMAs are for.

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

Wasn't Microsoft being sued over the xml format - copyright infringement or something like that?

al
al

Microsoft isn't using their own resources correctly on this one. It is great that they have advanced their document formats to provide for smaller and somewhat more universal use, but instead of forcing everyone with earlier versions of the product to install special software, they should have just made it part of a service pack update. No big deal. In reality those of us not yet on Office 2007 (I'm staying at 2003 - for now) should just treat this as an additional file format that could have come from anyone. Once the update is installed we now have that many more folks that we can communicate with from one product. I'd hate to have to return to the days where we all purchased multiple word processors (for example) so that we could communicate with each of our clients/partners. (I actually had four word processors loaded at one time - Word for the everyday user, Word Perfect for those we knew in the legal profession, and two others that were really in left field - but we did receive documents in their own unique file format.) Thankfully all of the file formats we receive now exist in our personal choice of processor. For now that is Word, but it could be Word Perfect or something else that should come along. Now - about that standard vs. non-standard XML thing... :-(

bobvanwyk
bobvanwyk

I agree to 100% but as an individual am using Office 2010 due to purchase of a new computer. It works well for me, but there is a small learning curve. Once you explore that's going on, you like it (I think)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

If you are just looking at home users it's no problem but business users are a completely different story. Like today I did a quote a for a new system and here I don't mean a single computer but a network for a smallish business and I've had to source Office 2003 instead of Office 2007 because their output when sent electronically will be unreadable to any of the people that they deal with. It's not impossible to maintain Backward Compatibility Word Perfect X3 works much better than Office 2007 and can read all the DOS WPD formats without a problem. It's also capable of reading most M$ Office Formats equally as well and will work natively in Office 2003 Mode. If Corel can manage to do this on a shoe string and still be ahead of M$ Products the obvious question is What is Happening at M$ that stops this from happening? In business you need to communicate with others and by attaching yourself to a new product that is not backward compatible you are costing yourself business. The converters should be in the product that fails to be compatible with the previous version of itself and not be an add on to to previous product as those companies still using Office 2003 will not see a need to convert the incoming documents but simply find another supplier for their needs. Not every company has the position that M$ has where there is no Alternative to their products. Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Many Government Agencies are still supporting WP5 Format for their Older Documents. At the time that these where new that was the standard that was used so they have never converted these from that format. The problem with the new Office Formats is that M$ is pushing Office 2007 to every Boy & their Dog who is willing to listen and buy and not making any response to these Nonprofessional People to help them send out a file format that is readable by everyone who may receive the documents. While I fully agree that M$ should have included the converter in the Office SP3 they didn't consider this as necessary and have not been been pushing the idea widely that there is a difference between their newest offering and what came previously are incompatible. The are actually pushing the idea that if you can use Office 2003/XP them you can use Office 2007 but neglect to push the idea that there is a different File Format used that is not readable by older M$ Office applications without modification. From my talks with M$ they are saying that they don't have the right to force changes to already installed Applications so the File Converter isn't included in any Office Live Updates because the end user hasn't approved the installation but as the same people are unable to read the new formats I see this as more [b]Smoke & Mirrors[/b] by M$ trying to make out that they are good corporate people. After all they forced the WGA updates on their End Users without Approval and have been copping heaps for this. They quite freely say that the File Converters are available for installation to anyone who wants them but again most of the people who need it don't know about it. While I get a lot of money making Office 2007 Native Documents readable to older M$ Office Applications I don't see this as the work that I should be doing and I don't see why a company should be paying me just because they are using a new Application. But it's just like the same excuse that M$ used with the ability to track changes in Word Documents they let you know about this [b]New Feature[/b] and then ignore the need to turn it off as unimportant. They insist that the End Users Technical Support should know better but the true situation is that most times the IT Support Staff isn't allowed to fix a problem until the brown stuff has hit the fan and it's useful to the end user so leave it intact and hope for the best. This has been all through M$ history with all it's products and the so called [b]Trusted Computing[/b] hasn't done anything to improve the situation. Col

CHaynes
CHaynes

If that is the case then perhaps MS should be pushing the file format converter as a desirable update to all applicable earlier versions of Office. The odd thing is that MS don't even seem to offer this as an office update to users of O2000-2003 - I'm not sure why. If it comes to that why wasn't it part of the recent SP3 for Office 2003? Having said that it is still the responsibility of system admins (not MS)to make sure that users send out documents in a form that can be read by the recipient. I would argue that anyone sending out documents to people with no knowledge of what software they are running should be sending it out in PDF format or similar - or if they must use an Office file format to allow document editing then send it out in Office 97 format to have maximum readability. As I said elsewhere MS clearly stated that new formats are used for O2007 - organisations using those formats have a responsibility to take that into account - afterall there are a lot of organisations still using Office 97 !

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

With Big Business they [b]should[/b] know but with a Small Business LAN that comes with 2007 Office installed. The staff who use this just see word as word and use it accordingly. Now normally this isn't a problem as they sent out hard copies but just recently with some documents they have electronically lodged some Medical Reports and the places receiving them are unable to read the documents. Sure I knew what was happening but the staff didn't. This is unacceptable in anyones book and makes things even worse if the patient was relying on a Medical Report being delivered for any purpose including Medical Treatment. The sad fact of life is that M$ has been dumbing down it's end user base for ever or at least as long as they have had an Office Product available which is part of the reason it was accepted. Now when a problem like this arises the people who use the product don't know what to do. It's not even new as as late as last year or the year prior didn't the CIA get caught out by sending Electronic Documents out with the ability to read alterations made to the documents? That's hardly a new feature and they are still getting caught out with that so how will these places go with something that actually prevents they documents being read on older Systems? M$ claim to fame was always the ability of any person to use their products without the need for Training for the routine stuff. Now they are altering things to bring about the need to educate people before they can begin to use the products properly. Unfortunately because these same people used what looks similar previously they don't see the need to learn anything new so the problems persist. Col

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Just set the defaut save options within office 2007 to save as the 2003 version. Can even do so in a group policy. Suddenly everythig becomes readable, electronically.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

on it being ridiculous to insist a customer install software to read your documents, the example was not the same. I see the pain that the Office upgrade will cause due to incompatibility but was pleased to see that you could set 2007 to default to saving in 2003 format. This would be a good way to move to the new version while maintaining the old format until others were on 2007. This might work in some situations but I am sure not all. Our problem with 2007 now is the fact that not all of our macros and document links will work in the compatibility mode.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Maybe you should have another look and see what you are mouthing off about. :D Col

foringmar
foringmar

No alternatives to MS products? Oh, but there are several. Lotus Symphony from IBM ZOHO at www.zoho.com Open Office Just to mention a few. I threw out MS Office years ago.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

They seem unwilling to save in anything but Native Format. At least I've got them to turn off the History so that any changes made can not be read. What can I say [b]End Users who tell the Boss how to work[/b] are always right no matter how wrong they are. :( Col

rpb
rpb

But you can save a file as a PDF in Word, Excel, etc. in Office 2007 by installing an add-in. And if we are talking about sending things to clients/customers, shouldn't we be sending them things that they can read and print but not change anyway?

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I have one unit here loaded with Corel Office 8 which can read the native File Formats of Corel X3. My problem is with a company who I am currently building a new LAN for who needs the ability to send documents mainly Word & Excel to their main buyers and it's up to them to provide something that their clients can read when sent electronically and they shouldn't be the ones insisting that their clients install more software on their computers just so that they can read the documents that they are sending out. In a case like that where there is a lot of competition the business unable to read the files natively will be more likely to switch to a new supplier than install converters that may cause more problems that they cure. Granted this may be a different mater in a few years but now it is important for business or at least the ones who want to stay in business. Currently I'm only looking at 250 workstations involved here but if I was to install Office 2007 their work load would drop dramatically till the companies that they supply either moved to 2007 or applied the Converter. Right now it is a problem and it shouldn't be left to the people sending proposals or tenders to insist that the companies Local Government Offices that they are sending electronic copies to change their systems to read their new documents format. This just isn't going to happen and they if supplied with that particular product would be the ones adversely affected and would reduce their ability to Quote or send documents electronically and they whould be reduced to sending these by Snail Mail without the ability to rapidly change something if the contract changes or there is a change in the tender. In cases like this it's generally First In with the changes Best Dressed and they get the job where as saying that the new Quote/Tender is [b]In The Post[/b] no longer cuts the mustard with these organisations. Even M$ accepts this and after a bit of pushing sold me the Volume License of 2003 and thought they did try to push the 2007 copy they accepted the need for the sale of 2003 because of incompatibility issues that have been introduced with 2007. And while you can use the Save As Option just how many Data Entry Staff know of this option? Most consider once that they click on the Save Icon the document is saved and is readable by anyone who cares to open it and since they can on their own computers why should they think any differently? Col

barbedwire
barbedwire

People are complaining because it's a departure from the previous releases. Office97 through 2003 all used the same file formats except Access. No "save as" required. To some extent it is a gratuitous file format change - one proprietary format to another. Of course, editions of WordPerfect, StarOffice, Works, Office97 etc. that some people use will not open the new formats...

rpb
rpb

New versions are almost universally backward compatible, being able to open files from older versions. Additionally, if a user of the newer version knows he is sending a file to someone with an older version, he or she can do a "save as" and save the file in the older format. This is nothing new... why is evryone making a big deal about it?

cmorris
cmorris

While I agree that this issue causes a lot of problems, I don't think the Corel example fits here. I do not use Office 2007 yet, but I believe it will open 2003 files (and earlier versions) as needed. The issue here is that the new version has upgraded the file structure (for good or bad, needed or not) and previous versions will not open 2007 files. Correct me if I am wrong, here, but I do not believe that the DOS version of Corel WP will open X3 created files. While I do NOT love MS prices and practices, I can not complain about a new version having new features. It would be a wate of their time to put out a version that was the same as the previous version. Please let me know if I missed something in this discussion. Chad