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Dealing with Microsoft Office 2007 File Formats

written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/5/2011

Receive a Microsoft Office file with an extension of docx, xlsx, or pptx? The user who has created these files is using Microsoft Office 2007. You don't need to upgrade to Office 2007. Stick with what you have and just take a few steps so you can open the X-files.

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    Microsoft Office 2007 has specific file extensions to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications in the suite. Instead of the familiar .doc, .xls and .ppt extensions -- they all have an x tacked on the end to create .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files. Those X extensions sure cause a lot of trouble for those who don't own Microsoft Office 2007.

    You would think Microsoft would be kind to its customers and make the file formats backward compatible. No, instead, you have to do a little more work to open them in pre-2007 Office software using one of the following three options to open the X-files:

    • Download a plugin for pre-2007 versions of Microsoft Office.
    • Use online converters.
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    Download a Plugin

    If you have an earlier version of Microsoft Office, you don't need to do anything big except download and install a plugin.

    Download and install Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. You may have to open an X-file a few times before it works, but it does work and it's a little slow.

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    Use Online Converters

    Search for them and you'll find a few sites can convert the files online for you or email you the converted file. Here are several available services:

    Zamzar: Service that converts files in three steps unless pushing a button counts as a step -- then it's four:

    1. Select file or URL for converting up to 100MB.
    2. Choose format to convert to (many more available beyond xls, doc, and ppt).
    3. Enter email address for receiving the converted files.

    Docx Converter works similar to Zamzar. It's another option plus it offers a desktop widget so you can convert files on your desktop without waiting on an email.

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    Download Open Office

    Open Office is a free suite that offers a replacement for those who don't use Microsoft Office. The suite can open X-files, but it cannot save files as such. Obviously, this would be a larger download than the previously mentioned plugins. This help page on Open Office discusses the file formats.

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    Note for Office 2007 Users

    If you find that you need to share files with others who don't have X-capabilities, it might save you time to make it a permanent feature to save all files X-less.

    1. Click the big round Office button.
    2. Select "program" Options such as "Word Options"
    3. Select Save.
    4. Select Word 97-2003 Document (.doc), Excel 97 - 2003 Workbook (.xls) or PowerPoint 97-2003 Presentation (*.ppt) next to Save files in this format.

    This method is faster than doing a Save As for every file. You can do this option if you prefer not to go the permanent route.