How to open Word 6 and other 'old' documents


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One reader uses OpenOffice to bypass ‘features’ in Word 2003 SP3.

Julie P writes,

I read the articles on “Problems opening ‘old’ documents” and thought they didn’t pertain to me. The earliest version of Word I had ever used was 6.0, which was supposed to be okay. Today I tried opening some files I’d saved in July and August 1996 and Word 2003 refused saying they were created in an earlier version. Other files saved during the same time period using the same software would open.

If I open the files in Notepad, there is more header information in the documents it will open. I’m guessing the files that would open were saved at my office and the others probably saved on my home machine.

My work around was to open the old documents in Open Office–which didn’t have a problem with either set of files. “

Julie’s experience is interesting – Word 6 for Windows documents should not be affected by the Office 2003 SP3 changes. Perhaps the files were somehow corrupt rather than being ‘too old’ for SP3 to cope with. Alternatively Word 6 saved them to a compatibility mode to work with Word 1 or Word 2 for Windows.

Opening the file in Notepad will let you look through a document and see if there’s any readable text. Grabbing text from notepad is possible but messy. This works with .doc files but not the new document formats (either .docx or .odt ).

Julie could have tried the ‘Recover text from any file’ option under Microsoft Word’s Open dialog.

828 Word   Open dialog   Recover Text from any file - How to open Word 6 and other 'old' documents

This option is in Word 2003 and Word 2007.

Or making the registry changes that allows Word 2003 Service Pack 3 to open the blocked file formats. Keep in mind that Word 2003 is still capable of opening the forbidden file and with the right registry hacks you can release Microsoft’s block on those features.

Most of all we like the irony of Julie’s ‘OpenOffice’ solution. It’s ridiculous that a document made by a Microsoft product can’t be opened by Microsoft software but does work with their main rival.

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