Software

Download: Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats


Generally, it takes people a while to upgrade. For what it’s worth, I've heard from users who have Office 2007, but they're not using it. While the ribbons wow users who are new to Office, they just confuse old users. In addition, I know only one independent developer who’s had a request to upgrade a custom application to Office 2007. 

Last week, Microsoft published a new Office 2007 compatibility tool, Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats as a free download. It allows you to open Office 2007 documents in earlier versions of Office.

What I find noteworthy is that it’s currently the second most popular download. That's just suspicious. Office 2007 lets you save a document to a version-specific format. In fact, you can even set the 97-2003 version save as the default. With that in mind, why would users need this download if they have Office 2007? Surely that rating doesn't represent the number of people who haven't upgraded but are receiving 2007 files. That just isn't believable.

Thanks to Jon Tydda of London England for the answer. According to an article by Dan Goodin in The Register, this download contains security upgrades for Office 2003.

I’m not sure why Microsoft has disguised an important security solution for Office 2003 as a compatibility tool for Office 2007.  The security fix is part of Office 2007. If you've got Office 2007, you don't need this download. But, you don’t need Office 2007 to take advantage of the 2003 security fixes. Microsoft might consider identifying this download differently.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

16 comments
ERISAgeek
ERISAgeek

I can't open the document at all unless I install the compatibility pack. If I install it, I can't print it. I even copied the text and pasted it into an e-mail and it still would not print the document. Next, I converted the document to .PDF format using Adobe Reader. It wouldn't even print that. And, it gets worse. I couldn't print the e-mail that accompanied that Word 2007 attachment. And worse than that, when I tried to print an e-mail from last year, I now can't print that either. Noting prints but my e-mail address and her name and phone number and e-mail address. None of the text prints. I even went into Add/Remove Programs and deleted the compatibility pack and I still couldn't print e-mails that were already there. I feel screwed. I would love to hear from someone.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

properly in the first place this wouldn't be needed at all. oh well. Do they also have one to allow you to use Office 2003 and / or 2007 to open stuff from older MS Office software? It's crazy how MS keep changing things just for the fun of it, despite the legal need to keep some files for a ten years of more.

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!

jason.riggs
jason.riggs

I somewhat agree with RobPatten on his comment that the point has been missed. You started out stating the correct use for the download, "It allows you to open Office 2007 documents in earlier versions of Office." However, I think Susan's point is that if there are not that many people out there using Office 2007, why would there be a need to have a compatibility download so that user can open Office 2007 documents? Obviously, there are enough people out there using the latest office to warrant the download for all of us that are not using it. I really don't believe that it is simply Microsoft's way of "disguising" a security patch. I have downloaded the compatibility patch myself to open a Word 2007 document and it worked fine.

RobPatten
RobPatten

This update is aimed at Office 2003 users who want to be able to open files that have been saved in Office 2007 format. It is not for Office 2007 users who want to save in a backward compatible format as this facility is already built in. Having said that, I have never actually got this utility to work, possibly because I have been trying to open files that were originally saved in a Beta release of Office 2007.

ssharkins
ssharkins

That looks great -- I haven't had time to actually read through it, but it looks interesting and even entertaining. :)

ssharkins
ssharkins

I didn't mean to imply anything MS's choice -- rather, I didn't and in truth, still don't -- understand why they've identified it the way they have. But no... I'm not suggesting that they've "hidden" a security patch -- that wasn't what I meant.

RobPatten
RobPatten

I suspect the majority of people who have downloaded this have done so "just in case" someone sends them an Office 2007 document that they need to open. For most people it would seem easier to download something when they stumble across it and think it may be useful. After all, unless an Office 2003 user knew that this compatibility pack existed, they would probably not think to look for one. To the best of my knowledge nothing like this has ever been released before when a new version of Office started using a new file format. I have to agree that its description is a little ambiguous. "Compatibility pack for the 2007 Office system" would imply it was FOR Office 2007 users, which is not the case. However when you go to download it the overview is quite clear: "By installing the Compatibility Pack in addition to Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003, you will be able open, edit, and save files using the file formats new to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007. The Compatibility Pack can also be used in conjunction with the Microsoft Office Word Viewer 2003, Excel Viewer 2003, and PowerPoint Viewer 2003 to view files saved in these new formats. For more information about the Compatibility Pack, see Knowledge Base article 924074."

ssharkins
ssharkins

That's why I don't understand why MS identifies this the way it does -- Office 2007 users don't need it, 2003 users do -- I admit, they've confused me on this one.

ssharkins
ssharkins

You've hit the nail on the head -- that was exactly my confusion. I appreciate the discussion. It's cleared up the issue for me, but I still think another name would be more appropriate.

RobPatten
RobPatten

The Dan Goodin article you refer to discusses the MOICE security update which is for the compatibility pack you originally referred to. In short, Office 2007 has this protection built in. Fair enough. Office 2003 itself does not have a problem. The problem only occurs when the compatibility pack is installed which then enables Office 2003 to open Office 2007 files. Effectively the MOICE vulnerability does not affect Office 2003 UNLESS the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack has been installed. So this should really be seen as a security update for the compatibility pack, rather than an update for Office 2003. That is my understanding of the situation anyway. Nowhere can I make the link that the Compatibility Pack itself is actually a "secret" security update for Office 2003 though. Let's face it, Microsoft don't tend to shy from releasing security patches on Microsoft Update.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I think you're right about downloading because they'll need it later -- I've already heard it more than once. Also, I appreciate what you've added about downloading unnecessary components and sometimes even harmful malware via a reaction rather than need. Even with pop-up managers, I still get a few of these nasty prompts and they always look very official and urgent. It never hurts to remind folks to be careful!

RobPatten
RobPatten

I have to agree it could be named more sensibly. I cannot remember for sure but I'm sure when the compatibility pack was first released, when Office 2007 was still in Beta, I'm sure it was named differently. Something not dissimilar to "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats" but I think it was a bit less ambiguous. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue anyway! I am sure the majority of people who downloaded this Compatibility Pack had no immediate use for it. But when you stick the words 'compatibility' or 'update' in the description people think they should have it now! Just look at all the people who are fooled into downloading browser toolbars, screen saver installers and weather tray junk because they have been offered it on a pop up. Attracted like magpies without thinking if they actually need or would use the features that are promised...

ssharkins
ssharkins

That makes sense -- thanks for the explanation. Answers my questions.