As you might expect, I deal with quite a few Microsoft Word documents--not just the ones I create that get passed between my editors and me, but reference documents supplied by vendors, proposals, and supporting documentation for various projects. This means, of course, that every time Microsoft does a major upgrade to the Office suite, I’m guaranteed to see multiple file formats for the same applications.

The problem is compounded by the different rates of change that apply to the sources of these documents; right now, I regularly see documents created in Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2003, and Office 2000. Even my own office lacks consistency--one of my workstations runs Office 2007, the other still runs Office 2003. I'm running Office 2007 because I needed to be consistent with a client for integration with their Microsoft Office Groove 2007 and SharePoint workspaces, and at the time I wasn’t willing to relearn the interface of the Office applications I use regularly. Soon I'll likely upgrade all of my systems to Office 2007 and ask that my contractors do the same, but for now I spend equal time in Office 2007 and Office 2003.

Fortunately, I rarely need to deal with features specific to Microsoft Office Word 2007. This means that on the systems running Office 2003, I can install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. This lets me pass documents between these Office 2007 applications and still read them in their Office 2003 versions, even if the document creator didn't save them in the Office 97-03 compatibility mode. The compatibility pack runs on Microsoft Office XP and on Office 2003 and can be downloaded from the URL below.
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=941b3470-3ae9-4aee-8f43-c6bb74cd1466&DisplayLang=en

The compatibility update is not supported on Office 2000, so although it might work, keep that in mind. Unfortunately, I regularly deal with folks who are still using Office 2000, and now and then I get an email message telling me a document is corrupt and they can’t open it. This almost always occurs because I was working in Office 2007 and forgot to save the document in compatibility mode. I could configure Word to save a file in Office 97-03 format by default, but that simply reverses the problem, as some of the work I am doing uses features specific to Office 2007.

Tip –

Given the number of Word documents I see, it isn’t surprising that I often find things in documents that I wasn’t supposed to see. The Word features that make editing and proofing easy also make it easy to forget to merge changes or leave comments in a final version of the document. When documents pass between multiple users for editing and commentary, it's all too easy to leave what should be hidden.

For users of Office 2003 and Office XP, it's possible to remove hidden data from the release version of a document. You can do this by using the Remove Hidden Data tool which can be downloaded from the URL below.
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=144E54ED-D43E-42CA-BC7B-5446D34E5360&displaylang=en

This tool lets you remove hidden and tracking data from documents running from within the supported Office applications, or you can run the hidden data removal tool from a command line and point it at a group of documents to sanitize them.