28 May 2007

Microsoft Office 2007 and the New File Formats

Thanks again for Microsoft to try creating a document "standard" that is not compatible with other office application suites.

If you haven't noticed this problem yet, it will probably affect you when a church volunteer sends you a Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document created with the latest version of Microsoft Office for Windows -- Office 2007.

The new file formats are not compatible with Office 2003 or earlier versions of Microsoft Office (more to follow on this).

These formats are also not compatible with the current version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X or the current OpenOffice or NeoOffice programs (more to follow on this).

Here's the details on the new file format from Wikipedia:
"Microsoft Office uses a new file format, called Office OpenXML, as the default file format. It is based on XML and uses the ZIP file container. According to Microsoft, documents created in this format are up to 75% smaller than the same documents saved with previous Microsoft Office file formats, owing to data compression.

Word documents without macro extensions are now saved using a .docx extension rather than the traditional .doc extension. Files containing macros are saved with the extension .docm. You can save your 2007 Word documents in the old format so that they will still be usable in previous versions of Word. If not, you will have to download a free converter from Microsoft for older versions of Word to be able to open documents created in the new format."
If you're using Microsoft Office 2003, Office 2002, or Office 2000; your best option is to download the "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats."

According to Wikipedia, the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac OS X (Office 2008) will be file-compatible with the Windows Office 2007 version and should be available in the second half 0f 2007. I cannot find any information on the requirements for Office 2008.

Microsoft has released a beta version of the XML filter for Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac OS X. This filter only converts Office 2007 Word documents (.docx, .docm). Here are the requirements for this conversion filter:
  • Microsoft Office 2004 11.3.4 or later
  • Office v. X 10.1.9 or later
  • Mac OS X 10.4.8 (Tiger) or a later version of Mac OS
A search on the openoffice.org site provided some information for users of OpenOffice. OpenOffice users should expect import filters for OpenOffice between summer and autumn 2007.

If you're using Microsoft Office 2003/2002/2000, you should install Microsoft's compatibility filter.

If you're a Mac OS X user who is using OS X 10.4.8 or later and Microsoft Office, you can install the Microsoft Word compatibility filter for using Office 2007 word documents. You will still need to have the people you work with save their Excel and PowerPoint documents in the older formats (Excel .xls and PowerPoint .ppt).

If you're an OpenOffice user on any platform or using a Mac OS X version 10.4.7 or earlier, you will need to ask the person who sent you the Office 2007 document to save the document in the earlier Microsoft Office formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt).

If this file format issue seems confusing, you can thank Microsoft for creating this confusion for you, your congregation, and everyone else.


Boy in the Bands (Scott Wells) said...

Looks like a good time to use Open Document Formats, either in OpenOffice.org or through Google Documents.

PDF, plain text, rich text format, and comma separated values would work too.

But I'm biased.

Steve Caldwell said...

Scott ... I agree totally that open document standards are the way to go.

The hard part is getting volunteers with various levels of computer experience to use open document standards. Hence the need for Office 2007 file conversion in other office suite software.

I'm pretty sure my partner (who is the DRE in our congregation) and our office administrator will receive at least one Office 2007 document in the course of their job before the end of this year.

It could be a newsletter submission, a committee report, correspondence for the board, etc.

Someone is going to be so happy with their new Vista PC and Office 2007 that they won't realize that the file formats are incompatible with the older versions of Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, etc.

I've already had this happen with me after an OWL training weekend. A volunteer sent a roster of folks attending in the new Excel format. The new Excel format is not usable by OpenOffice yet but can be read by Office 2003. My travel laptop with OpenOffice could not read the new file format but my home PC could after installing the compatibility pack.

I've already installed the Office 2007 compatibility filters on my partner's laptop (runs Win XP for compatibility with PowerChurch and some other programs the congregation uses). I'll install the compatibility pack on the office PC later this week. The church uses Microsoft Office 2003 on the DRE's laptop and the office PC. After this week, both should be OK with congregants sending Office 2007 files.

The minister's laptop is a Macbook and the file compatibility solutions are not there yet.

Kaj Kandler said...

Great post! I like that you not only state the broblem, but also the state of the workaround/solution.

If you are converting more users to OpenOffice.org, please tip them off to Plan-B the support site for OOo.