Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Using Alternative File Formats

By default, Office applications save data files in their own binary formats. When you double-click the icon for the saved file, it opens using the program with which you created the file. That's the correct choice if you use Office programs exclusively for your own personal productivity. However, when you share files with friends, neighbors, and coworkers who don't use Office 2007, you need to think carefully about how they will deal with the files you create.

The most important issue to consider is that all Office 2007 programs, by default, use new XML-based formats. (You can tell the difference by looking at the filename extension—the new, XML-based format for Word 2007 uses the .docx extension, whereas older files created using the format for older versions of Word use the .doc extension. The same is true of Excel, with .xlsx and .xls extensions, and PowerPoint, which uses the .pptx extension instead of the older .ppt extension.

The new formats have a variety of benefits, including decreased file size and a lower likelihood that you'll encounter data-destroying file corruption. But if you send a file to a friend who is unprepared for it, they'll see an error message when they try to open it.

So what should you do to avoid this sort of problem?

If the people with whom you plan to share files use an earlier version of Office (Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003), send them a link to the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/products/HA101686761033.aspx. After they install this add-in, they can use their older version of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint to open, save, and edit files (with the obvious restriction that any features specific to Office 2007 won't be available for their use).

If your friends don't use Office at all, they can still open the files you send them by downloading and installing viewer programs that are compatible with the new formats, and then installing the Office Compatibility Pack. These lightweight programs allow anyone with a computer running Windows XP or Windows Vista to view, but not change, documents created in Office. (Don't be alarmed by the 2003 label on the Word and Excel viewers. The Compatibility Pack takes care of updating these two programs to handle the Open XML formats.) Find the viewers here:

Finally, you can head off all potential compatibility formats by saving any file you create in a format other than the Open XML default. To do so, click the Office button and choose Save As. In the Save As Type box, choose an alternate type that you know will work for all your recipients.

Office includes an assortment of file converters to help open and convert files that were originally saved in other popular formats, including those for earlier versions of Office. Normally, Office programs open any file created in a compatible format without requiring any extra work on your part. The file you want to convert might not be visible in the Open dialog box if it ends with an extension that the Office program doesn't recognize. To see all files of a given file type, select the appropriate entry from the File Type drop-down list, which appears just to the right of the Filename box.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account