Office 2007 Compatibility Issues

 a Small Business IT Perspective

by Sam C. Chan

July 1, 2009

Update:  April 20, 2014  The situation is now reversed--majority of the mobile OS Office viewers do not support the legacy format. The docx, xlsx, pptx formats have become the new norm.

US Adoption Picture (as of mid 2009)

  Group/Sector Ratio Remarks
0 Consumers New Purchase 100% Default choice, as pre-installed, or as available at retail for purchase since end of 2006
1 Consumers Install Base 35% Still many legacy Office 2K/XP/2003 around, with new 2007 added
2 Very Sm Biz - Unmanaged 30% Operate like Consumers. Less incentive. More budgetary pressure due to scaling (qty). But unable to provide logistical solutions.
3 IT Managed Sm Biz 10% Fully able to move forward or hold back as optimal for operational concerns. Not-at-all dictated by vendor's schedule. Able to supply logistical know-how and tools to implement hybrid/legacy setup as needed. Favor simplicity and lower expenditure. Not interested in latest features.
4 IT Managed Med Biz 25% Operate like #3, but with larger budget, and more tech savvy, appreciate new features. Greater need for advanced features, due to organization complexity.
5 Large Corp 50% Major incentives: superior Outlook/Exchange features. In-house developed solutions based on Word/Excel/PP 2007 feature sets. Typically have pre-allocated funding and on-going upgrade contract in-place. Cost is not a concern. Also benefit in major security boost.


  • Office 2007
    • released since end of 2006 (3 years ago)
  • Office 2003
    • discontinued since April 2007 (28 months of 2007-only sales).
    • Mainstream support ended 4/14/2009.
    • EOL 4/8/2014.
  • Office 2000
    • Mainstream support ended 6/30/2004
    • EOL 7/14/2009

Compatibility Status & Notes

  • All 4 versions: Office 97, Office 2000, Office XP (2002) and Office 2003, use the same Office 97 file format. Only features and user interfaces are different.
  • Office 2007 uses the new format by default. Can be configured to default to old format, with reduction in functions.
  • The new format has been adopted by various government agencies world-wide as their official standard document format, as it is legally an open standard. The old format was proprietary.
  • New format is compressed and generally much smaller.
  • New format supports encryption (not just password protected).
  • Office 2007 is backward compatible, i.e. it can read/write old format documents.

Strategies, Policies and Options

  • Coping with the mixed format enriornment during this transition period, which could last a decade...
    • Large organizations simply update their IT infrastructure regularly and have already naturally rendered the issue moot.
    • Others (with clout) find it most optimal to officially declare & enforce a hold-back policy, demanding compliance from internal staff and external partners.
    • Majority of small buinesses have staggered (and oft over-long) upgrade cycle within the organization, and no clout, thus adopt hybrid mode by default.
  • Users of Office 2003 may install a converter (free download from Microsoft)
    • It is an integrated file converter add-on, not a version upgrade.
    • It enables 2003 (but not earlier) legacy users to open documents in 2007 format, but does not support any of the new features
    • transparent procedure: opening documents in new format automatically triggers background launch of converter program, eventually resulting in such documents opened in Office 2003, in reduceded format all new features stripped.
    • The delay incurred is very noticible. The added hardware resource demand is also quite significant for some old systems.
    • Installing this partial Office 2007 code also incurr additional security risks, via Office 2007 vulnerabilities.
  • Users of Office 2007 may configure their software in compatibility mode, causing all newly created documents to be in legacy format by default, and prompting for "save as 97-2003 format" conversion prompt when editing a document in new 2007 format.
  • Ad hoc per-document manual conversion. Ask coworkers or external partners to use "save as" procedure, as a special accommodation.
  • Use non-integrated file converter utility online, or locally installed program.

See Also:


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