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Understanding and Choosing File Formats

Before we go over the different files themselves, let's discuss what the benefits are to the new file formats. Here are some of the ones that Microsoft documents:

  • Compact files—Your files are compressed automatically and can, at times, be between 50 and 75 percent smaller. Basically, a zip format automatically zips the document when you save it and unzips it when you open it again. So, when you send files over email, they are automatically smaller in the new Office XML format without any new utilities needed. Smaller files mean less disk space used on your hard drives, and it also means less bandwidth utilized when files are accessed over the Internet or within your internal network.
  • Damage recovery improvements—Files are saved in a component-oriented structure. Components are tables, charts, images, or document metadata, for example. So if your table or chart becomes corrupted, this won't affect your ability to open the entire document.
  • Safer Office XML files—Files saved with the default "x" ending (such as .docx or .pptx) cannot include VBA macros or ActiveX controls. There is another file type, as you can see in the next section, that can contain these macros, but they have an "m" ending (such as .docm or .pptm). This means that you have a sense of safety from these types of macro and ActiveX problems that creep into your network. And antivirus software can easily identify which documents might be problems by the extension alone.
  • Metadata removal—All the little document properties and comments, for example, that might be personal information or company-only information can now be removed from your documents. You can use a tool called the Document Inspector, which you can configure to search for and remove metadata before sharing that document with another department or others outside your company.
  • Integration—Saving documents in an open XML format allows other applications to utilize that data. To open an Office file, all you need is a Zip tool and an XML editor.

After all these years, you may be wondering why Microsoft would make this change to an entirely new format—especially one that will absolutely make your newer documents inaccessible from earlier versions of Office. Several years ago, Microsoft made a commitment to the XML industry standard. Office 2003 showed that commitment by including the capability to save files as XML. This is the next step in that move toward an open format and toward handling customer requests for the capability that XML will afford their documents.

You may be wondering what the difference is between the XML in 2007 and the one provided in 2003; the 2007 version includes the zip capability we mention earlier and the modular structure for components of the document.

Office 2007 File Formats at a Glance

The following tables give a list of all the different file extensions for Word 2007, Excel 2007, and PowerPoint 2007. You can find this list within Microsoft help files, either online or within the integrated online help from any of the Office applications. This chart, however, includes the file formats for the backward-compatible side to Office 2007, which we discuss in a future section. Notice that the new extensions have four letters.

Word 2007

Type of File




Macro-enabled document




Macro-enabled template


In addition to these new formats, Word will support opening and saving .doc and .dot files for backward compatibility, along with other options such as .htm files.

Excel 2007

Type of File




Macro-enabled workbook




Macro-enabled template


Non-XML binary workbook


Macro-enabled add-in


In addition to these new formats, Excel will support opening and saving .xls and .xlt files for backward compatibility, along with other options such as .htm files.

PowerPoint 2007

Type of File




Macro-enabled presentation




Macro-enabled template


Macro-enabled add-in




Macro-enabled show




Macro-enabled slide


Office theme


In addition to these new formats, PowerPoint will support opening and saving .ppt and .pot files for backward compatibility, along with other options such as .htm files.

Access 2007 File Formats

Access 2007 comes with a new file format as well. Now files will have the .accdb file extension. This is more than a simple extension change, but it comes with a variety of enhancements. Keep in mind, though, that if you save your databases in the .accdb format they will not be compatible with earlier versions of Access. Access 2007 does provide the capability to Open and Save databases in the older .mdb format if necessary. You may be asked if you want to save these databases in the new .accdb format, which is encouraged so you can take advantage of the new features. However, if you need these databases to be available to older versions of Access, do not convert them.

Saving Files in Alternate Formats

You have the flexibility in Office to open up one kind of file and save it as something else. For example, you can open up an .htm file in Word and save it as a .docx file if you would like. Or you can open a Word file and save it as a text file (.txt).

To do this in applications with the updated ribbon format, open the document you want to save and then select the Office button, move your mouse over Save As, and then choose the option you need. If you want to save your document in one of the more obscure formats, you can choose Other Formats from Word, Excel, or PowerPower.

With Access, you can save documents in older formats, as mentioned earlier, but you cannot save an Access database as a .jpg the way you can with a PowerPoint slide.

From applications that didn't get the updated look, you can save your files in different formats by going to the File menu selection and choosing Save As.

Publishing Documents as PDF and XPS Files

One of the latest and greatest features of Office 2007 is the capability for many of the applications to save (or publish) a document as a PDF or XPS file. For anyone who has needed to do this in the past, you already know how frustrating it used to be. But with the free add-in, which you have to download first, you can publish within seconds.

For those of you who may not know what PDF or XPS is, here is a quick review. PDF is a file format that is very common because it takes your document and preserves it for sharing. So you don't have to worry that someone will work on it or make changes; it's already set, all formatting included, for others to read. To read PDF files, you need a reader program, and the most popular is Acrobat Reader, which is free from Adobe. XPS is the XML Paper Specification, which is also a format for sharing documents.

In either case, if you want to save a file in PDF or XPS format, you have to download and install an add-in from Microsoft. It's free, though. Go to Microsoft.com and do a search (or go to the Downloads center and look for) "2007 Microsoft Office Add-in: Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS." It's only a 696KB file. Keep in mind that this add-in is going to enable not only Word, but Access, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Visio to save documents in the PDF or XPS file format.

For applications that have the updated interface, you select your Office button, choose Save As, and then select PDF or XPS. You could also choose it as an option when you are saving a document normally. For applications such as Publisher or Visio, which haven't received the ribbon overhaul, you go to the File menu and choose Publish as PDF or XPS.

After you make configuration choices for your PDF or XPS file, you can choose Publish to complete the conversion.

For a deeper look at converting to PDF in Word 2007, see "Secrets of the Office Masters: Saving Files as PDF or XPS" p. 453.

Using Office Files with Older Office Versions

When you create a new document in Office 2007, you have to consider a few things. Is the document for you only? If you are going to send it to others, what versions of Office are they running? If you have any doubt that they are using Office 2007, you should save your documents in a backward-compatible file format.

If you open a document that has been created in an earlier version of Word (or if you create a new document and save it in a backward-compatible format), the document will be in Compatibility Mode, and you will see this in the title bar of the document, as shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 Compatibility Mode ensures that 2007 enhanced features are unavailable.

If you have a document that you have created in the newer file format and you know that to share it with others, you have to convert it to an older version, you may be concerned that you will lose some functionality in the document. This is very possible, especially if you have used special features like the new SmartArt tools. To check what functionality you might lose, go to your Office button, and then to the Prepare options. From here you run the Compatibility Checker.

You'll notice in Figure 3.2 that a list of issues will be reported to you so that you can prepare mentally for the lack of functionality, make modifications before saving the document, or choose to avoid the change.

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2 The Compatibility Checker gives you a summary of issues with saving files in an older format.

If you would like to work with the newer features, you have to convert your document to the new file format. That will be addressed in the next section.

Converting and Importing Files Between Office Programs

There is an actual Convert button that will help you to move your files into Office 2007. If you have a document that is in Compatibility Mode and you want to convert it, select your Office button and choose Convert. The dialog box shown in Figure 3.3 appears and gives you instructions on moving forward. You select OK, and the document is converted to the new format.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.3 The conversion process is simple and the benefits are broad.

Now, you might not want to convert the document, but save it as another file altogether (this way, you have a copy of the original format). To do this, choose Save As and select the new file format up at the top.

Using Office Programs to Create and Edit Web Pages

Saving your documents as web pages is a very easy task in Office applications. You can select the Office button and hover your mouse over Save As. Then choose Other Formats, find the .htm/.html formats, and save the document. You can see the results if you open the web page in your web browser.

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