Word 2007 Documents Unreadable in Earlier Word Versions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 8, 2017)


Dorothy is the secretary of a church committee. When she used Word 97 to send minutes to committee members, no one had a problem opening the documents. Now that she has upgraded to Office 2007, several people cannot open her Word documents, even though she carefully saved the documents using a format that should have been compatible with the older versions of Word being used. Dorothy is wondering why this happens and how she makes sure that others can open her documents.

Dorothy is not alone in experiencing this particular problem. I've heard from other Word 2007 users that periodically (but not all the time) find that documents saved in an older Word format are actually saved as XML within a document that externally looks like it is in the old format. For instance, a document that starts as MyFile.docx ends up saved in the old format as MyFile.doc, but within that file is the same XML that was in the DOCX file.

Since this is a sporadic problem, it is difficult to track down a solution, and there seems to be nothing in the Knowledge Base that recognizes or addresses this problem. Perhaps, then, the best solution is a workaround—if you need to have a file that is readable by earlier versions of Word, use RTF format. The format is compatible with all versions of Word and with other programs, as well. (In some programs other than word, such as WordPad, you may loose some of the more complex formatting structures, but the document can still be read and loaded.)

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (6074) applies to Microsoft Word 2007.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 1 + 8?

2012-12-11 11:17:06


I would just send the file as a PDF.

2012-12-11 10:04:10


Ok, this is the reverse of the medal: I am still using MS Office 2003, and I have solved the issue of decoding the "...x" files by installing in my PC the OpenOffice.org free suite, which I only use for the task of reading the new Microsoft format.

2012-12-11 09:30:45


I have been saving the documents I send out in the older version, yes it creates duplicate copies in two versions, but it saves others time when they can't open a document

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