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A humble submission to their Lordships

Even after two years, the Lords and Members of Parliament in the UK can’t easily open Office 2007 documents. We explain the simple options available to the honorable members. is reporting that the UK’s Members of Parliament and the House of Lords are having trouble opening documents that are delivered in the Office 2007 document formats. This is despite the passing of two years since Office 2007 was released.

The 1,388 honorable members are using Office 2003 which is described as being ‘incompatible’ with Word 2007 document formats. As some parts of the UK civil service have moved to Office 2007, the (mostly) elected representatives are having trouble reading the information supplied to them.

Lord Methuen from the House of Lords information committee is quoted saying “A program can be downloaded to read the documents but obviously not everybody knows how to do this.” which seems reasonable but is quite wrong. It seems his lordship is talking about the free Word, Excel and Powerpoint viewers which can be downloaded to view both the old and new Office document formats. However that’s not the only solution.

There’s an ‘investigation’ to upgrade the members computers to Office 2007 as if that’s the only way to fix the compatibility problem. It isn’t. If you have Office 2003 you don’t have to pay money, spend time and trouble to move to Office 2007 just to open, view and edit Office 2007 document formats.

Office Watch has talked about Office 2007 compatibility problems for a long time and it’s amazing to see such a large and presumably well resourced operation having troubles. You’d think that the large IT department in the UK government plus Microsoft would be able to sort this out long ago. Have the honourable members asked their IT gurus about the free add-on that will let them read Office 2007 document in their existing software?

We’ve talked about Microsoft’s lapses in this area before. Microsoft has been surprising inept in pushing the benefits of the Office 2007 document formats and the availability of the Office 2007 compatibility pack. The company has been relentlessly pushing Office 2007 and it appears to have done that in this case. The interim measure for Office 2000/XP and 2003 users is passed over in favor of the option that will generate more income for Microsoft.

In brief, here are the options available for pre Office 2007 users faced with a docx xlsx pptx or other Office 2007 document.

Office 2007 document compatibility pack

If you have Office 2003, Office XP or Office 2000 then you can download the free Office 2007 compatibility pack, details here.

This add-on will let you open Office 2007 documents from the usual File | Open dialog or double-clicking on a file.

Once opened you can view and edit the document just like any other file.

You can save a document to the new formats from the File | Save As menu option.

The Office 2007 compatibility pack isn’t perfect, for example you can’t make Office 2007 formats the default format for all documents. However it’s more than sufficient to read documents you receive via email.

The add-on has been around for two years, is free and can be deployed by IT managers to medium and large scale Office user bases.

Office 2007

Microsoft’s preferred option is to replace old versions of Office with their latest release. It’s true that Office 2007 will provide the highest level of compatibility with both the new and old document formats.

However the direct and indirect costs of Office 2007 are high. While the new ‘ribbon’ interface is probably better for people in the long run, there’s no doubt that the new look of Office 2007 is a significant psychological hurdle for many people and trainers.

Smart IT managers are ignoring much of the marketing push by Microsoft and using the Office 2007 compatibility pack as an interim measure before taking the plunge into Office 2007.

Free Office viewers

If you don’t have Office 2000, XP, 2003 or Office 2007 and want to view Office 2007 documents you can get the free Office 2007 viewers from Microsoft.

More details and links at

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