For years now, Microsoft Office 2003 has been the most popular Office version. Microsoft Office 2007 installations are growing though and will eventually take the lead. In the past, it has not mattered too much if you had Office 2000, Office XP (2002) or Office 2003 as each version of Excel, Word and PowerPoint could read the other versions in most cases. The problem now is that Microsoft has completely overhauled the file format for Office 2007 documents and the new format is not compatible with the old format.
As long as you work on your own documents, this is not really an issue, but today most of the documents I open are created by someone else. You may be on either side of this issue. If you are using Office 2007, then others will have trouble reading documents you create in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. If you use an older version, then you will have trouble reading document from users of Office 2007. In either case there is a solution for you.
Office XP and Office 2003 users can download and install the "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats". Unfortunately, this does not apply to Office 2000. If you are using Office 2000, then it is now time to upgrade. You are being left behind when it comes to compatibility with others. To get the Office Compatibility Pack, browse to http://preactiveit.com and click on "Utilities" at the top. On this page you can click the download link under "Microsoft Office 2007 Compatibility Pack". Microsoft recommends that you install any critical updates from http://windowsupdate.com before installing the Compatibility Pack.
Office 2007 users have a built in solution. You can select the "Save As" option and then choose save the document in a format compatible with Office 97-2003. In the options screens in Word, Excel and PowerPoint you can choose the Save option on the left and then change the "Save Files in this Format" to the old 97-2003 format. This will change the default format for any new documents you create. You have to make this change in Word, Excel and PowerPoint separately.
This should help you stay document compatible with others for years to come. Thanks to David Daniels for this month's subject.