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Word Viewer: Open New MS Documents on Old PCs

Updated on September 24, 2011

My Word Documents are not There

I most often write on my older desktop computer, which uses Microsoft Word 2003. However, on the weekends I use my newer notebook which runs Microsoft Word 2007. When I save Word documents on the newer notebook on a thumb drive to work on later on the PC, I cannot open the documents.

The reason for the incompatibility is the file format of Word 2007 documents. Microsoft changed the file format and the new format is the docx format. The 97-2003 format was the .doc format.

I hear many complaints from students who save work at the college but cannot open the documents on their home PCs. In many cases, the documents do not even show up as available. The reason is a compatibility issue between the older versions of Microsoft Word and the newer file format.

Microsoft to the Rescue

I know you probably hate Microsoft: many people do. However, Microsoft does publish some good products and occasionally fix what they break. The compatibility issue between newer file formats and older versions of Microsoft Word is one of those rare occasions where Microsoft has done something right.

Microsoft develops most applications to be backword compatable, which means that older files should be recognized by newer versions. However, forward compatability is not normally built into a product, by Microsoft or any other software publisher. They do not know the changes that will occur in the future when they publish a current release.

The fix for the compatibility problem with Microsoft Word is to install Microsoft's Word Viewer. Word Viewer permits a user to open and view files saved in newer formats of Microsoft Word than what is installed on the computer. The Compatibility Pack must also be installed to create the link to the new file formats.

Using Word Viewer permits the user to open up the documents, which may then be copied and pasted into a document created using an older version of Microsoft Word or any other word processing application.

Another solution is toto save documents in the older format on newer computers using the Save As option in the Office Menu. This, of course, requires the author to be conscious of file formats when saving documents and authors are not always aware of such trivialities as file formats. For this reason, Microsoft Word Viewer is probably the best solutions..

Download Word Viewer

You can download Microsoft Word Viewer and the Compatibility Pack directly from Microsoft.  There will probable be other download sites on the web that will offer Word Viewer or a similar program.  The best strategy, however, is to download software directly from the publisher when available on the publisher's web site.

Download the latest version of Word Viewer from the Microsoft web site.  You can also obtain a copy of the compatibility pack from Microsoft at the same link.

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