When discussing the method to convert an old Microsoft Word document into the latest file format, it’s important to understand how file formats work.
Documents created in Microsoft Word have long been known to have a *.doc file extension. The file extension is the easiest way to identify which program is needed to open the file in question. With the introduction of Microsoft Word 2007, and every version released since, Microsoft Word uses a new file format, *.docx.
The new file extensions provide many benefits including better file compression, better privacy controls, improved data recovery methods, and easier detection of files containing macros. Where possible it is best to use the latest file format for your files.
The new file format is based on XML, which stands for Extensible Markup Language. XML is essentially a definition of how a file will be structured and has given new functionality to the Office suite of programs.
These new file extensions now have either an m or x appended to the end. An M will allow a user to identify the file uses XML with macros, whilst a file with an X appended will identify the file uses XML with no macros.
|Microsoft Office 2003 and earlier||Microsoft Office 2007 and above|
When a file is opened which uses an old file extension or was created in an earlier version of Microsoft Office, you will see [Compatibility Mode] appear in the title bar of the program. This alerts you to the fact that your file is not in the most current format available and therefore it will not be able to utilise all the newest features of the program.
If you create a file in the new file format, e.g. .docx, and then later open the file in a more recent version of Microsoft Office, you will often still see the [Compatibility Mode] message.
For many users, this is confusing because the file is already saved as .docx which is the latest file extension format however Word is still saying the file is in Compatibility mode.
Be aware that in the time between Microsoft Office 2007 being released and then the release of each version of Office since, the XML structure of the file extension was also upgraded therefore meaning that any files created in Office 2007 and above, did not have the latest XML structure updates, and therefore causes the compatibility message to appear.
To be able to use the full functionality of Microsoft Office 2013, 2016 or 2019 you will still need to convert your file using the method below to add the new XML structure into the file.
Convert the file format
For this exercise, I am going to show you how to convert a Word document from Office 2003 file format to the Office 2016 format. Be aware that it is not as easy as renaming the file to include the X on the end of the extension, you need to use the Convert tool included in the Office programs for the conversion to be successful.
As part of the conversion process, the original file will be deleted and replaced with the new file in the new format. If you are concerned about this then I generally recommend that users make a copy of the original file, in the original format before proceeding with the conversion process.
To easily convert a file created in an earlier version of Microsoft Office, follow these steps:
- Open Microsoft Word
- Open a document created in an earlier version of Word (Press Ctrl + O on the keyboard)
- You should see [Compatibility Mode] in the Title bar area
- Click the File tab
- The Info category will be displayed
- Click the Convert button from the centre of the window
- A message will now be displayed on the screen
As computer users we have become very complacent about reading messages which appear on our screens. Often users will just click OK without reading or press Cancel if they can’t be bothered, it’s time to change those habits, so ensure you read the message
- Microsoft Word is telling you that the document will be converted to the current file format which allows you to use all of the new features of Word and will reduce the file size however some layout changes may occur. The original document will be deleted and cannot be restored after the conversion. If you accept this then click OK
- You will now see your document again. You will see that the [Compatibility Mode] message is no longer displayed in the title bar however the file still shows as *.doc.
- Click File > Save or press Ctrl + S on the keyboard
- The file will now be saved and the file extension will now update as show as *.docx
You have now successfully converted a file from the old file extension format to the new one.
If you would like to see how to convert an Excel workbook to the latest file format, see my post here.
If you have any questions about this process or any other aspects of this please contact me.