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Beware Microsoft Word

By the way, don’t take this as some sort of anti-Office rant or reason not to upgrade. I like Office 2007 and strongly recommend that folks upgrade when they’re ready. I believe it’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes, though.

Perhaps "Beware" is too strong a word in its normal context; Word’s not lurking in the darkness like the boogey-man ready to pounce on the unsuspecting citizens. There is a minor danger hiding under its beautiful new façade, though. One that may bite you if you’re not aware.

The newest version of Word, along with most of the applications in Microsoft Office 2007, saves its files in a new format. For the most part that’s a good thing. The old format was never publicly defined and suffered from many problems. Office 2007’s new format is cleaner and built on XML, our favorite buzzword of the decade, which should make it easier for developers to build tools to create and modify custom documents for you.

The downside to changing file formats is that not everyone changes at the same rate. You’re happy upgrading, using the newest version and learning its new interface. But… maybe your customers aren’t all moving as quickly. Will they be able to use the documents you’re sending?

As you move – or your company’s IT department moves you – to Office 2007, it would be a smart idea to talk with each of your customers, vendors and others with whom you exchange documents. Make sure that they know about the new formats. If they’re not moving to Office 2007 yet, point them to Microsoft’s Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

As an alternative, you can use the Save As dialog box to create files using the old format.

You can also set your applications to do this for all your documents. From the Office Button (that’ the official name for the round button in the upper left-hand corner of the window), choose Word Options (way down at the bottom right of the menu) then choose Save.

The downside is of course that you’d lose all the yummy goodness of the new formats. I recommend not doing this unless a majority of your contacts have yet to upgrade and won’t be doing so for some time.

3 Comments

  1. So, is this new format the ODF-compatible format they keep hinting at, or something else that M$ has dreamed up to keep people forever stuck in the Micro$oft-knows-better-than-you-what-you-want world?

  2. Office 2007’s XML-based file formats are not ODF, but as noted in Wikipedia’s ODF format, there are translators…

    “Although Microsoft Office does not support OpenDocument, Microsoft has created the Open XML translator[14] project to create technical bridge between Office Open XML and OpenDocument. As a result of this project Microsoft finances the ODF add-in for Word project on SourceForge. This project is an effort by several of Microsoft’s partners to create a plugin for Microsoft Office that will be freely available under a BSD license. The project has released version 1.0 for Microsoft Word of this software early 2007 and plans versions later in 2007 for Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint.”

    source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument

  3. Well, maybe they’ll get it right in the next version — they’ve been promising that they would support ODF directly in one of the next releases.

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