Microsoft Office: Is it okay to cross the streams?

There’s a bunch of us in our organization who exchange MS Office files (a PowerPoint here and there, maybe an Excel now and then, a lot of Word). I’m currently using Office 2004, I have Office 2008 on order to arrive next week. 4 folks are using Office 2003 and we’ve had no trouble with Mac-Windows file compatibility so far. Maybe a funky font now and then.

Now we have a new employee starting in a couple of weeks and it looks like I have to set up her new computer with Office 2007. I may be able to scare up a nonprofit license of Office 2003, but this late in the Office game it’s probably not worth it.

I’m hoping that file format compatibility between Office 2007 and earlier versions is no longer the issue it used to be now that Microsoft has released a compatibility pack.

Any real world experience in working in a cross platform/cross Office version environment I should know about?

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8 thoughts on “Microsoft Office: Is it okay to cross the streams?

  1. At our school district, we’re running a mix of ’03 and ’07 and, many times it works fine. But there are new bells and whistles in ’07 that don’t translate down to ’03, even with the compatibility pack.

    One item that comes to mind had to do with using fields in protected Word documents. The functionality is changed in ’07 (it’s actually pretty nice) but they don’t work at all in ’03. In the ribbon item for those forms, there’s an advanced option that allows you to pick the old form elements. I can’t remember much beyond that at the moment, I’m afraid, but you should be able to poke around there to see what I’m talking about. If not, ping me and I’ll try and get more concrete info for you. I think there’s also been some minor formatting quirks.

    Overall, though, we haven’t run into a lot of problems – and that’s coming from one of two helpdesk folks who support 14K+ staff and students. That said, unless the new staffer _needs_ ’07, I’m not sure I’d drop a single license into your environment. But if you must, I believe you can configure ’07 to default to saving in 97-2003 format which may help avoid features that don’t translate well.

    I’m looking forward to your Office 2008 coverage. I’m waiting to bite that bullet until I really need it (though I can get EDU pricing). I installed NeoOffice on my Mac when I got it 6 months ago (didn’t want/need to bother with Office 2004) and I have yet to even fire it up. Of course, I don’t do a lot _work_ on my Mac. 😉

  2. Wendy says:

    I’m having a hell of a time with Word 2007 because I can’t open the damned files in Open Office, which is what I’ve been using on my home laptop since my hard drive crashed. I could install Office, but it seems to be a bother except for this one compatibility issue.

  3. MS is a customer of mine and consequently always on the latest versions of everything whereas we stick with older versions. So I’ve been working with Office 2003 v. Office 2007 for sometime with only minor problems, once I’d installed the latest compatability pack I’ve had no problems. We tend to share Word docs and PPTs for RFPs and Exel sheets for reporting, and all work fine even with weird MS macros in them.

    I had more issues when they moved to Office 2003 and I was still working with Office XP especially with Calender appointments not arriving in a readable format but so far I’ve had nothing like that this time.

  4. Wow, Office 2008 is already coming out. But 2007 just came out and Microsoft doesn’t publish new versions so often. It might be due to the fact that Vista is so incompatible with many things and Microsoft is being pushed into making their Office suite more internet-based. I do think that they need to improve. I know Office 2007’s docx and Office 2003’s doc files are incompatible. A major obstacle for someone who uses both daily such as myself.

  5. Judi Sohn says:

    Stacy, Office 2008 is a Mac-only version, so that’s why it’s coming out so close to Office 2007 (PC only).

  6. I run Mac Office 2004 and frequently exchange Word/Excel stuff with Office Windows users. I’m running into problems when I receive files in the latest version of Windows Office. They have an “x” at the end of the extension “docx”, “pptx”, etc. The converter thing for Mac Office 2004 usually fails. I have to throw the files onto a WinXP laptop, it’s becoming a pain in the buttocks. Considering getting Mac Office 2008… we’ll see.

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