Updated: 2006-12-23

While the best way to minimize compatibility issues is to standardize your environment on a single file format, many organizations will need to deploy the 2007 Microsoft Office system in a phased rollout, or will need to collaborate with other companies. For this reason, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office Word 2007, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 contain features to ensure compatibility with previous versions of Office. You can use the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack to allow backward compatibility, so that previous versions of Office can open and save files in the new file format. In addition, the openness of the new file format makes it more compatible with non-Office programs.

Using the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for backward compatibility

To meet the needs of users upgrading to the 2007 Microsoft Office system, Microsoft offers updates and a compatibility pack for Office XP and Office 2003 that enable a user to open and save 2007 Office release XML files. (Conversion tools for Office 2000 are not available for the 2007 Office system Beta 2). For more information, see Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink?LinkID=77512).

Features that are not supported in the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack

Some features in the 2007 Office system are not supported in previous versions of Office. Some data might be lost when a user opens a converted file in a previous Office application. Users are informed of this when they modify and save files that were created using the new file formats.

OMPM Office File Converter

You can use the Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM) Office File Converter in conjunction with the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack to perform bulk file conversion tasks. For more information, see Migrate Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files to the 2007 Office system.


The 2007 Office system viewers enable sharing 2007 Office release files with users who do not have the 2007 Office system or the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack installed on their computers. The viewers allow users to view and print, but do not allow edit operations. You can find these downloadable files on the Office Resource Kit Web site.

Each viewer (one each for Office Word 2007, Office Excel 2007, and Office PowerPoint 2007) is a separate MSI package and must be installed separately.

The viewers coexist with previous versions of Office applications.

Setting default save options

You can change the default file save options for Microsoft Office Word 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 with Group Policy. For more information, see Using Group Policy to set default file save options.

Using compatibility mode

The 2007 Office system offers a new feature, compatibility mode, to provide backward compatibility with previous versions of Office. Compatibility mode disables all features in the 2007 Office system that cannot be displayed by previous versions of Office programs. Compatibility mode also disables features that do not convert well when saved in the file formats used by previous versions of Office. The list of disabled features is dependent on the application and the content that is selected.

Compatibility mode does the following:

  • Optimizes the user experience in mixed environments for easier collaboration.

  • Limits feature data loss due to limitations of the previous file formats.

Compatibility mode is document-specific. For example, if a user opens two files at the same time, a PowerPoint 2003 file, which has compatibility mode on, and a Office PowerPoint 2007 file with compatibility mode off, compatibility mode is enabled for the first and disabled for the second.


By default, compatibility mode is on when a file from a previous version of Office is in use.

For more information about compatibility mode, see Compatibility mode in the 2007 Office system.

Compatibility checker

Compatibility checker is a dialog box that appears when there are features in a document that would be lost or degraded, either when a document is saved in an previous format or switched into compatibility mode. The dialog box lists all the features that are affected, and enables the user to cancel the operation, continue with the save, or switch into compatibility mode.

Compatibility checker does not appear when:

  • There are no identifiable issues in the document.

  • The user has disabled compatibility checking in the document.

If a user has chosen not to run the compatibility checker tool when a file is saved, it can be turned back on by running the compatibility checker manually from the File menu.

The list of compatibility issues in the compatibility checker dialog box are grouped by:

  • Minor issues. Changes in the visual appearance of content are small or there is a minor change in how a legacy Office application edits the content.

  • Major issues. Feature data is lost or severely degraded when it is saved to the binary format. Users of the 2007 Office system can run the compatibility checker on a file at any time to see what issues might exist.

Considerations for printing and viewing files

Applications in the 2007 Office system retain the layout and sizing of documents that were created with previous versions of Office. This reduces the possibility of page-break issues, alignment issues for text and images, and sizing problems with charts and objects. However, potential issues remain that depend on the following:

  • Printer hardware and configuration.

  • Backward compatibility when printing or viewing files with the new file formats in previous versions of Office.

Printer hardware and configuration

Printer hardware and configuration can affect the appearance of document output both to the screen and to the printer. The print layout of a file depends on the fonts, graphics, images, and configuration of the printer hardware. Printing between different brands or models of printers commonly results in slightly different output, which can cause different page breaks, margin changes, and color differences. When you format a large document with default printer settings set to a specific printer, you should use that same printer so that you reduce the possibility of unwanted page breaks or margin changes.

The 2007 Office system offers improved text and graphic printing capabilities. Files in both the previous and new file formats benefit from these improvements when they are printed in the 2007 Office system. However, print quality depends on the features and resolutions supported by the printer.

Backward compatibility

When a user creates a file in the 2007 Office system and opens it in a previous version of Office, some of the graphic content is converted to images instead of autoshapes (ready-made shapes that are included in Office applications). This happens because a previous version of Office cannot render the new graphic effects in the 2007 Office system. When opened, the file is converted to the binary file format supported by the application. The print quality of a new file in a previous version of Office is affected by the limitations of that version.

In addition, backward compatibility can affect the view of a Office PowerPoint 2007 presentation. Some animations are changed or removed during the conversion if they are not supported in the previous version of PowerPoint. For example, a shape can have a color effect in the 2007 Office system that is removed during the conversion, because this effect is not supported in previous versions. Presentations with few or subtle animations are most likely not affected.

Compatibility with other programs

You can perform the following actions with files in the new file formats without using an Office application:

  • View content.

  • Delete content.

  • Edit content.

  • Replace content.

  • Copy content from one file to another.

  • Identify the degree of security a file will have by examining the file name extension.

  • Use search tools to examine the contents of a file.

  • Programmatically find and manipulate content in a file without using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) or the object model.

The new file formats are not proprietary; they are available on a royalty-free basis to any user. Third-party developers can create programs that manipulate the XML files without using Office applications or the related Office object models. You can get free downloads of XML schema definitions on the Internet.

Download this book

This topic is included in the following downloadable book for easier reading and printing:

See the full list of available books at Office Resource Kit information.

See Also