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How To Make Sure You're Compatible Around The Office
Mon 20th December 2010
As well as odd requests to post things, I often get random calls which range from the usual communications suppliers or someone looking for a boarding kennel (honest). Obviously the distraction is sometimes welcome and does introduce you to a circle of people you might not otherwise talk to. But by far the most frustrating calls come from an IT specialist friend who frequently phones to ask if she can email a file for me to sort out as she can't open on the system she is using at X or Y's premises. Now, I don't know if she's too busy to sort this out, or if she genuinely doesn't know the difference between her .doc or her .docx, but there's really no excuse.
When Microsoft Office 2010 introduced different file formats it caused a tremor of panic among those who do not understand the new Office Open XML formats (XML is short for Extensible Mark-up Language). The reasoning behind the new file formats include safety it is now safer by separating files that contain scripts or macros, making it easier to identify and block unwanted code or macros. Files are also smaller in size and are less susceptible to damage or file corruption. But this change in file naming and format does not need to mean huge obstacles for Office 2010 users who share files with everyone else.
For most people using Microsoft Office 2010, the change in file format can be seen in the file extensions used for naming files. In earlier versions of Microsoft Word, for example, files were saved with the .doc extension, Microsoft Office Word 2010 files now use the .docx and .docm file extensions. Excel workbooks have exchanged their .xls file ending for new .xlsx or .xlsm extensions in Excel 2010. Presentations in PowerPoint have long been saved with a .ppt ending whereas, now, in Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2010, the file extensions are either .pptx or .pptm. The differences depend on whether or not a file contains macros or programming code. The letter "m" at the end designates possible macros in a file. Other less commonly used file extensions may also appear on Office 2010 files.
It's easy to establish whether your file has been created in Office 2010 or Office 2003 files: if the file is an Office 2007/2010 file format if it has a four-character extension; it is an Office 2003/2002 (or earlier) file format if it has a three-character extension. Microsoft Office Access 2010 databases are also saved with a new file format, .accdb, or can be created with the same file format as earlier versions, .mdb, to allow for continued easy access to data. Once an Access database is converted for use with Access 2010, however, it is no longer available for use with earlier versions of Microsoft Access.
If, like my friend, you use Word 2010, it operates in Compatibility Mode when you first open the program and you can see the text [Compatibility Mode] in the application's title, next to the name of the document. Compatibility mode allows you to work on documents created in versions of Word prior to 2010. When working in compatibility mode, some new functions in Word 2010 may be disabled. If you open a document created in Word 2007, for example, Word 2010 will detect this and switch to compatibility mode. As soon as you save a new document as a Word 2010 document, the [Compatibility Mode] text is removed from the title bar and the new function become available to you.
Although files created in previous versions of Office can be opened using the Office 2010 version of the applications, supported files vary by product. If you have Office 2000, XP, or 2003, you will need to download the free Compatibility Pack. However, new features and formatting capabilities found in the new version might be lost when saving to or opening from previous versions of the software. After installation, you can open Word 2010 documents that were saved in .docx and .docm formats. You can't, however, open Word 2010 template files that were saved in .dotx or .dotm format. The compatibility pack does allow you to open basic version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents created using Office 2010 in MS Office 2003 and below.
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