Much Ado About File Formats

The web has been buzzing this week with discussion of an issue with Microsoft Office and older file formats. Here's the gist of the issue:

  • When Microsoft came out with Office 2007, the new software blocked users from opening files created by older versions of Word, Excel and Power Point - mostly programs launched in 1995 and earlier. The change also kept users from opening some files made in Corel Corp.'s CorelDraw.
  • In September of this past year, Microsoft released Office 2003 Service Pack 3 - a free package of updates and fixes which also blocks users from easily opening the older file formats.

So why would Microsoft make it difficult for Office users to open older Office file formats?

According to Microsoft, opening these files poses a security risk. Specifically, the code that reads these older file formats may open a PC to hacker attacks.

What should you do if you ever find yourself using Office 2007 or Office 2003 updated with Service Pack 3 and needing to open an older file format?

  • You can create a trusted location and place the files there. This is documented in It's an easier process if you're running Office 2007 than if you're on Office 2003, but it is an option.
  • You can change the default version that Office 2007 & 2003 will still open. Information on how to do this may be found here.

Granted, most of us are not regularly opening active files from 12 or more years ago.  The only files I still open that are so old are a series of poorly written poems from my undergraduate days.  Hmmmmm, maybe it's better if I don't open those after all....