Office Viewers going now, or in 2018

The long-standing viewer software for Word, Excel or PowerPoint are going to that Bit Black Hole to which all software must eventually go.

The Word Viewer, Excel Viewer and PowerPoint Viewer are being ‘retired’ in Microsoft parlance.

That only means they won’t be available for download from Microsoft.  Nor will the company release any more security updates.  The Viewers can still be installed and operate, as long as you’ve got the download.

Word Viewer is being now retired – November 2017.  The link no longer works … damn.

Excel Viewer goes in April 2018

PowerPoint Viewer goes in April 2018

What are the Office Viewers?

They’re standalone programs that let you view, print and copy Word documents or Excel worksheets.

The PowerPoint Viewer can display a presentation.

They worked for all documents from Office 97 onwards, meaning both old and new format documents (doc docx  xls xlsx ppt pptx etc).

The Word Viewer is also a useful way to view old documents in WordPerfect and Works documents.

Smart PowerPoint presenters have the PPT Viewer and presentations on a memory stick.  If your main machine fails, the Viewer software can be quickly installed on another machine.

Why are they going?

It’s the old story, there’s Microsoft’s public reasons and the real reason.

According to Microsoft, the Viewers aren’t necessary anymore.  Office Online via OneDrive or the Office Mobile apps are available to everyone on many devices, not just Windows.

All that’s true, though the online options aren’t necessarily available or practical. Microsoft conveniently overlooks that fast and wholly reliable Internet access is still rare for most people.

The real reason is, of course, money.  Maintaining the three viewers with security and feature updates costs money that Microsoft can trim from the budget.

What’s the alternatives?

Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, having an offline way to view documents or show a presentation is a handy trick to have up your (virtual) sleeve.

Let’s start with ” Microsoft recommends using these applications to view Word files: 

  • On Windows 10 PCs, download the free Word Mobile application from the Windows Store
  • On iOS devices, the free Word for iOS application from the Apple Store
  • On Android devices, the free Word for Android application from the Google Play store
  • On Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 PCs, upload the file to OneDrive and view it for free using Word Online
  • Try Office 365 for free for 1 month. “

Microsoft’s recommendations ignore people using pre-Windows 7 PCs.  The current viewers works for Windows 2000 SP4, Windows Server 2003 SP1, Windows Vista and XP SP2, none of which are supported with Microsoft’s recommendations.

There are plenty of ways to view Office documents beyond Microsoft’s recommendations.

WordPad comes with all versions since Windows 95. Recent versions can open Word .docx, OpenDocument .odt files and RTF files among others.

LibreOffice, WPS Office and FreeOffice can open, view and edit Office documents – both old and new formats.  Google also has Office suite software, though the conversion of Microsoft formatted documents is clumsy.

Many apps for Apple and Android will open Office documents, if you have some aversion to running Microsoft’s own free apps.

Mac and Linux

Despite what Microsoft omitted, Mac’s and Linux also work with Office Online (the web browser based version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote).  The company has forgotten its own hype about Office Online being available across a range of platforms.

Office Watch recommends

Download all three viewers, the links are above.

You never know when they might come in handy in unforeseen situations.

The downloads aren’t big by modern standards and can easily fit on a memory stick with other ‘rescue’ software.

After ‘retirement’ you’ll probably be able to download the viewers from other web sites but better to have them direct from Microsoft.  Besides, you might not have a good (or any) Internet connection when the need arises.

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