SANDY BERGER: Handling the Headaches from Incompatible Files
There is nothing more aggravating than trying to open a document from a friend and being given an error that says, "unable to open."
Or worse yet, how about being presented with a document filled with "http: //www.google. com/search? hl=en&rls= GGGL,GGGL: 2006-13, GGGL:en&sa= X&oi=spell &resnum=0& ct=result&cd= 1&q=gobbledy gook&spell=1 gobbledygook.
Yet this happens quite often because of incompatibilities between programs and even incompatibles between different versions of the same program.
When new programs become available, there are often incompatibilities in file formats, even with older versions of the same program. Such is the case with the newest version Microsoft Office, Office 2007.
Microsoft Word is part of this suite of programs, and it is the program that causes the most headaches for unsuspecting users who try to share their documents with others.
Older versions of Word create documents with a .doc extension. By default, Word 2007 creates documents in a new format that ends in .docx.
If you purchase Word 2007 and create a document without changing the default settings, any friends or businesses associates who are using older versions of Word will not be able to open your documents. While you can blame Microsoft for this (and many people do), it is really just the nature of the fast-moving computer world.
Call it "progress" or whatever else you like, but the fact is that we have to live with it. The same problem exists with several other Microsoft Office 2007 programs, including Excel, PowerPoint and Publisher. People expect to be able to send out these common types of documents and have everyone be able to open them, but this is not the case.
There are, however, some fairly simple workarounds. If you have Word 2007, and you know you want to share the document you just created with someone who has an older version of Word, just click on Save As instead of Save. Then choose to save the document as a Word 97-2003 Document. Everyone with Word will then be able to open your document and you will still be able to open them in Word 2007.
If you have used some special feature that is available only in Word 2007, a pop-up will alert you to that fact. However, most average documents will save perfectly in the old file format.
While creating a document in an older format is one way to ensure compatibility, sometimes you don't know when you create a document that you will want to share it with someone who has an older version of Word, or you do not know what version of Word the intended recipient owns. Of course, you can save the document again in the older format, just to be sure.
However, the easiest thing to do is to set the default to save in the older format. This is what I do. After you reset the default, every document you create will be able to be read by every Word owner and you won't have to constantly think about format compatibility.
To do this, just click on the round Office icon and click on the Word Options button at the bottom of the pop-up screen, then choose the Save Option on the left. Use the drop-down arrow to change the Save files in this format to Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc). Click OK, and all of your files will be saved in the older format ensuring compatibility.
You can handle 2007 Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint in the same manner by either using the Save As command or changing the default save options.
Alternatively, you can send Office files as read-only PDF files. This is handy if you send out a calendar of events or a similar document or you want to share documents with people who may not have Word at all. Using this method will create a PDF file that will be able to be viewed, but that the recipient will not be able to change.
The first time you create a PDF from Word 2007 or another Office 2007 program, you will choose Save As, as we did in the above example. You will then choose Find add-ins for other file formats, and download the Microsoft Save As PDF add-on package, which is free download.
After you download the free add-on, PDF will appear in your Save As menu choices. You do not have to own Adobe Acrobat to use this option. Your recipients will have to have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on their computer, but today most people already have that installed, so this is a good way to share documents.
Now, what if you are using an older version of Word, Excel or PowerPoint and someone sends you a document in the newer version? You may feel that you don't want to contact that person and have them resend it in a different format. You just want to be able to open it.
No problem, just surf over to the Microsoft downloads area at www.microsoft.com/downloads and search for Compatibility Pack. From there you will be able to download this free tool that will let you open, edit, and save files in the new formats without having to own the newest versions.
The Compatibility Pack does not yet cover Microsoft Publisher documents, but Microsoft may update it to cover those documents in the future.
To use the Compatibility Pack, you must have an older version of the Word, Excel, or PowerPoint installed on your computer.
Yes, dealing with incompatibility issues can be a pain, but it really helps to understand what is going on so you can properly handle these problems when they arise.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your comments and questions on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu kiss.com/happycomputing.
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