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Tip #7: Understand the Compatibility Issues

Right there along with the major change of the look and feel is the change in the file format structure of Office 2007. The new file formats have an “x” added to the extensions. For example, Word’s .doc is now .docx, and for Excel, .xls is now .xlsx. This new file structure was built to support the new features; however, it is not directly compatible with the file structure of previous versions of MS Office. There are workarounds for this issue, though.

Documents created using the new structure can still be opened and edited with previous versions of Office if the converter is installed. Because some people won’t have the converter installed, you can also save to the older file format from Office 2007. You can always click the Office Button, choose Save As, and select the 97–2003 file type, or change the default saving format as discussed next.

When editing Office 2007 documents formatted in the previous file structure, the application is put into what is called Compatibility Mode, which is indicated in the title bar of the application. When saving the document, you’ll be prompted of possible formatting issues. Additionally, some new features won’t work in this mode, such as SmartArt and the improved Charts; the old versions of the tools still work.

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