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February 25, 2008

Make Word 2007 Save to .doc by Default

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While the MS Office 2007 GUI is nice (and maybe even a tad more usable), the (relatively) new docx file format is so proprietary, it's not even funny. Can Office 2003 users open it? Not without the Microsoft-developed "compatibility pack". Can OpenOffice users open it? Not without installing a non-standard file handler for the program (there are instructions for installing this on linux-based systems). Using the format is well and good among 2007 users...but what about when you email that docx writeup (due tonight, no less) to your professor, who uses only OpenOffice? Oops.

The main problem is that the docx format is fundamentally different in composition from the good ol' doc format. The doc format was your standard binary file format, much like image files and executables; essentially, they are text surrounded by Word-readable formatting instructions.

The docx format, on the other hand, is a zip file containing other files that describe the contents, formatting, embedded objects, and everything else the docx file holds. According to Microsoft themselves:

To open a Word 2007 XML file
  1. Create a temporary folder in which to store the file and its parts.
  2. Save a Word 2007 document, containing text, pictures, and other elements, as a .docx file.
  3. Add a .zip extension to the end of the file name.
  4. Double-click the file. It will open in the ZIP application. You can see the parts that comprise the file.
  5. Extract the parts to the folder that you created previously.

Regardless of the differences, though, the mass switching from one format to another caused by the widespread adoption of Office 2007 is nothing less than inconvenient for those users not using the new Office. You can help by setting your copy to save to the compatible doc format by default :D . After starting Word 2007, go to Orb->Word Options. Select the "Save" tab on the left, and choose "Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)" for the "Save files in this format:" option. Then click the OK button. From now on, anytime you select Orb->Save, Word should offer the old .doc format as the default format to save to. Hail compatibility!

1 comment:

Matt said...

thank you thank you thank you.
stupid .docx.... the whole company was saving in this format and didn't even know it... then they wonder why nobody on the outside can open their documents!

again, can't thank you enough.