I wrote a piece for IT Week about document format defaults in Office 2007. The problem is that users with Office 2007 start emailing documents to others who do not have the suite. It is not too bad for other Microsoft Office users, who can download a compatibility pack, but for users of other operating systems it is problematic, though there are online services like zamzar.com.
Someone who read it pointed out that with the binary formats Office 2007 works in “compatibility mode”. Doesn’t this lose most of the benefits of upgrading to Office 2007?
My suggestion: try it, and let me know what features you miss.
As far as I can tell, the two biggest issues in Word are with the equation editor, and themes. The equation editor is disabled after you save a documents in .doc format, and themes are converted to styles. Personally I prefer styles to themes, and I rarely use the equation editor, so it is no loss to me. Further, it is not a problem doing Save As if you want to use some special feature like the equation editor. For sure, it beats getting that phone call when you are out of the office the next day, “That document you sent, it won’t open.”
What about Excel? Help says, “any new or enhanced Excel 2007 features are not available” in compatibility mode. I presume that would include the new larger sheet size. However, I’ve not bothered to convert any of my existing workbooks because I don’t actually notice any difference.
The ribbon, which is is the big new feature in Office 2007, works the same whatever format you use.
Still, it is a fair point. If you find it easy to do a Save As for documents that need to be shared with users not using Office 2007, then there is no problem using the new formats.
But how do you enforce that across an enterprise? Not easy; and of course Windows Explorer hides the extension by default. Documents in the old format are described as:
Microsoft Office Word 97-2003 Document
Microsoft Office Word Document
though unless you have a wide column size you might well see them both as “Microsoft Offi”, thanks to a particularly user-hostile naming convention.
However, you can set the default save format across an enterprise, with group policy. To my mind, that’s better than sending out stuff that is unreadable.