Dealing with Microsoft Office’s New File Formats. (.DOCX, .XLSX, .PPTX)

With Microsoft Office 2007 (Windows) and Office 2008 (OS X), Microsoft introduced a new XML format. You’ll know them right away for two recognizable reasons. First, they have an X at the end of their file extension (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx). Second, they won’t open properly in older versions of Microsoft Office (2003/2004). Quite the annoyance, however there’s ways to deal with the new Office XML Documents. Here’s what you need to do:

What is the new format all about?

Believe it or not, this new file format is actually a great thing. It’s all about standardization and interoperability with an open file format.

Before the new Open-XML document formats, Microsoft used a proprietary binary format to save its Office documents. Due to an Open Specification Promise, they allowed royalty free licensing of the proprietary Office document formats. However, in practice other software companies had difficulties achieving full compatibility with these documents. In addition, several countries ruled that official documents must be in an open format. So, they moved to the Open-XML format with the introduction of Office 2007.

For more technical and detailed information, visit the Open Office XML Wikipedia page.

Why is it incompatible with earlier versions?

The new format is incompatible with earlier versions of Office because they have no way of understanding this open file format. They look for an encoded binary file format and can’t understand the new specification. With Office 2007 for Windows, Microsoft released a Compatibility Pack. However, they didn’t release one for OS X.

How do you open the new formats in Office 2004?

What they did release with OS X was an Open XML Converter. This converter basically changes the Open XML documents to another readable format, which you then have to manually re-save as the older Office 2004 type. You either drag and drop the file into the converter or batch process many files at once.

How do I change Office 2008 to create / save files in the older format?

Even though the new format is great – I’m all for open standards, it isn’t going to change from the old format overnight. Older versions of Office are still heavily used on both Windows and OS X platforms. In the interest of compatibility with older systems, I’m going to show you how to set Office 2008 to prefer the older format when creating / saving new documents.

Microsoft Word 2008:

1. Start up Word 2008 and go to the Preferences.

Setting Word 2008 to save .Doc instead of .Docx

2. Under “Output and Sharing”, Click on “Save”.

Setting Word 2008 to save .Doc instead of .Docx

3. Choose “Word 97-2004 Document” from the drop down menu.

Setting Word 2008 to save .Doc instead of .Docx

Microsoft Excel 2008:

1. Start up Excel 2008 and go to the Preferences.

Setting Excel 2008 to save .xls instead of .xlsx

2. Under “Sharing and Privacy”, Choose “Compatibility”.

Setting Excel 2008 to save .xls instead of .xlsx

3. Choose “Excel 97-2004 Workbook” from the drop down menu.

Setting Excel 2008 to save .xls instead of .xlsx

Microsoft PowerPoint 2008:

1. Start up PowerPoint 2008 and go to the Preferences.

Setting PowerPoint 2008 to save .ppt instead of .pptx

2. From the tabs on top, Choose “Save”.

Setting PowerPoint 2008 to save .ppt instead of .pptx

3. Choose “PowerPoint 97-2004 Presentation” from the drop down menu.

Setting PowerPoint 2008 to save .ppt instead of .pptx

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