MS Office 2007 Compatibility Pack

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Office 2007 Compatibility Pack from Microsoft is a free extension for MS Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003 that enables users of those versions of Office to open, edit, and save files using the new file formats used by Office 2007.

The Compatibility Pack can also be used in conjunction with the Microsoft Office Word Viewer 2003, Excel Viewer 2003, and PowerPoint Viewer 2003 to view files saved in these new formats.

If you use an older version of Office (e.g. Office 2003) and work with someone who uses Office 2007 (or vice versa) then you’ve probably already noticed that documents saved with the new Office 2007 extensions (.xlsx/.xlsm, .docx/.docm, and .pptx/.pptm) do not open with older versions of Office.

Most people work around this issue by working with documents in Office 2007 in “compatibility mode” and making sure to save their documents using the old extensions (.xls, .doc, .ppt) which Office 2007 can do easily.

Although the solution above can work, wouldn’t be ideal if you could simply install a converter on your current, older version of Office that simply allowed it to open the new extensions? This, in fact is what the “MS Office 2007 Compatibility Pack” does. Here are some notes on this program:

  • How it works: this program will convert the document you are opening from the new Office 2007 formats to a format that your version of Office can work with, and then convert it back to the Office 2007 format when you save. Aside from the dialogs that show up when the conversions occur (see screenshot), the end effect is a seamless experience of working with the new file extensions.
  • Are there any compatibility issues?: yes. Although the Compatibility Pack should open 90%+ of Office 2007 documents without hitch, attempting to open some Office 2007 documents might not be entirely successful if the document uses some of the newer functionality specific to Office 2007, and the compatibility pack will display a warning message to inform you. For example, I attempted to open an Excel .xlsm document that utilized rows beyond the 65,536 rows supported by Office 2003, and the compatibility pack simply truncated all the extra rows that Excel 2003 could not handle (Excel 2007 can handle just over a million rows). Although a better solution is probably just not possible, this is obviously less than ideal, especially if the user works with the converted document without understanding the warning prompts and without being fully aware that the document was degraded in the conversion process.
  • Works with Office 2003 document viewers: you can download these from Microsoft. I haven’t personally tested these.
  • Uninstallation: should you want to uninstall the compatibility pack, you can do it easily using Add/Remove programs.

The verdict: the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack works really well and is probably fantastic news to the ears of millions of MS Office users in workplaces all over the world.

Version tested: 3.0 (11/19/2007)

Compatibility: Windows machines running MS Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003.

Go to the download page to get the latest version (approx 28 megs). Does not require Windows Genuine authentication/validation for download.