using .doc, shoud i move my business to .docx?
January 2, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

should i move my office to word 2008 (.docx) or stay with 2004 (.doc)?

we use microsoft office 2004. we have stayed with microsoft 2004 for a while because 2008 generates docx files that no one can read. i am reasonably handy with a computer and, last year, i could not install the docx/doc converter. i tried it recently and it worked so i am thinking that maybe we could move our office (20 people) painlessly to docx and office 2008. i am happy with 2004, but the converter does garble the .docx files we increasingly receive. also it is getting harder to get 2004 licenses so at some point i will have to relent. is now the moment?

the only way to do it is gradually so we will have a mixed office for a while. so the question is the translation of files seamless enough for us to remain functional in this state.
posted by alcahofa to Computers & Internet (25 answers total)
try openoffice, it can read doc files and it is free. and the file format is not proprietary so you won't be locked in to microsoft and be forced to keeping paying for every "new" version of the same old MS Office.
posted by abbat at 4:17 PM on January 2, 2010

if you move to word 2008, you can still use 2004 as the format (in the "save as" dialogue box) if you want -- that would allow you backwards compatibility for everyone who still stays on 04, and no one would have probs opening the new docx format...
posted by modernnomad at 4:18 PM on January 2, 2010

Best answer: You can just use office 2008 (which is way better than 2004) and set the default save to .doc
(instead of docx).
posted by special-k at 4:19 PM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

The primary issue, IMHO, is that the user interface for 2008 is very different from 2004. The transition can be frustrating for many users at all levels of usage.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:20 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Word 2008 takes a bit of getting used to, but it's fine, and switching made my life a lot easier. It opens .doc files with no problems. When/if you switch, it is ultra-polite send both .doc and .docx to folks if you're not sure whether they have 2008, because as you know, it's a real pain to successfully convert files. Which is UTTER, UTTER bullshit, imho, and would make me switch from Word if it weren't so ubiquitous.
posted by nosila at 4:21 PM on January 2, 2010

Do you need to run or record macros? If so, don't switch to 2008! Hang on for the next version -- I believe it once again includes support for VBA.
posted by theredpen at 4:22 PM on January 2, 2010

I think Office 2008 is way better than 2004, so an upgrade is definitely worth it. It takes some getting used to but I find it much easier to use than older versions. However, the newest version of Office (2010) is currently in public beta, although I'm not sure exactly when in the coming year it will be released. You may want to consider holding off for a few more months.
posted by puritycontrol at 4:29 PM on January 2, 2010

...and maybe just install the beta as a temporary solution until you go for the actual upgrade.
posted by puritycontrol at 4:31 PM on January 2, 2010

Am I on crack, or aren't the versions called 2003 and 2007?
posted by gjc at 4:46 PM on January 2, 2010

GJC, I think so, but there's a Mac version that might be 2004, and there is a Mac version of Office that is dated 2008.
posted by midatlanticwanderer at 4:50 PM on January 2, 2010

While getting familiar to the new format can be frustrating, in the end, Office 2008 is worlds better than 2004. When sharing files, as mentioned above, you can just save in the old ".doc" format, and most of the time if someone just edits the extension from ".docx" to ".doc" they can access the file, too.
posted by katemcd at 5:06 PM on January 2, 2010

Just repeating that you can easily make Word 2007 (which is getting ancient at nearly three years old) save files in .doc format automatically. I'd spring for the upgrade.

Sure, 2010 is coming soon, but 2007 has got some good mileage on it, and it's not going anywhere soon. 2010 is bound to be a little buggy for the first year at least.
posted by General Malaise at 5:08 PM on January 2, 2010

With regards to the Office 2010 beta that was mentioned, the official release date is still on track for June.

If you do decide to upgrade to 2007+, try not to let the UI change dissuade you. It can be pretty jarring, but once you settle in it will improve your workflow quite a bit.
posted by truex at 5:45 PM on January 2, 2010

I've used both 2007 (PC) and 2008 (Mac) as well as their earlier equivalents, and that's a bit of a tricky question, especially at the business level. I do agree that eventually (whether it be this year or next), you will need to convert as .docx takes over at the enterprise level as it's certainly on the way to doing.

The thing to keep in mind that while 2007/8 are backwards compatible with regular .docs, it's not a perfect compatibility (so if you've got a business where that's an issue, heads-up) and you really have to make sure that your .docx users are saving in .doc format until everyone's at the same level because there are some .docx files that cannot be read at all in the earlier versions of Word. I would expect to have some issues with document compatibility in the transition period (it's Microsoft Office, after all--there's always some issues).

The other major point, besides technical issues with file compatibility, is staff buy-in. At my office, we're currently half 2003 and half 2007 because staff were able to choose whether they upgraded their machines or not. Some chose not too because the interfaces on 2007 and 2008 are radically different from 2003/4. Depending on the flexibility of the people at your office, you may need to have training sessions and you may need to extend the length of the transition period (my office skews older, thus the half and half mode we're currently in).

On the other hand, you've noted in your question that it's gradually becoming a problem to use the Office 2004 with converter solution. I would argue that 2007 and even 2008 have finally gotten most of their bugs worked out (MOST of them) and it seems like more businesses are switching (I don't always have to send both versions of a document anymore) and you can probably handle the transition fairly easily, so if you can manage staff concerns, switch to 2008.
posted by librarylis at 5:45 PM on January 2, 2010

"...for a while because 2008 generates docx files that no one can read ... but the converter does garble the .docx files we increasingly receive."

I need to point out this dichotomy - you make it seem clear your peers are using 2008 since you are receiving docx files, so the statement "no one can read" them is not true. If the number of docx files you are receiving is making you ask this, it's time to upgrade.
posted by GJSchaller at 6:10 PM on January 2, 2010

Start by defining the problem(s) you want to solve by migrating to .docx. Are there any?

Not that the advantages of .docx seem to be diminishing.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:58 PM on January 2, 2010

I was forced by my office to switch to Office 2007 two weeks ago. If I had the choice, I would NOT have switched. IAALitigator, so I essentially have to learn something new every day, either about the law, my clients, or my adversaries. I'd rather not have to re-learn how to double indent a paragraph on top of everything else, too.

So I'm not happy about being forced to learn a new user interface, particularly one in which the keyboard shortcuts are gone or aren't indicated (I am still getting stuff done faster by using the shortcuts I had memorized, as opposed to switching between 3 different ribbons to get one thing done).

Can someone explain to me why or how Office 2007 is better than Office 2003, or why my firm forced me to adopt Office 2007 (three years after its rollout)? Is the answer as simple as forced obsolescence, to drive new license revenue to Microsoft?
posted by hhc5 at 8:24 PM on January 2, 2010

You'll need to upgrade eventually, like it or not. You've already stated as such: "it is getting harder to get 2004 licenses". It's time to start your migration. Obviously, you need a plan you need to get it done. On the plus side there isn't any real rush.
posted by chairface at 10:33 PM on January 2, 2010

Go ahead and upgrade, be sure to send people what they want to receive (doc vs. docx). Be ready for a lot of complaints as people learn how to use the new version. that end:

Can someone explain to me why or how Office 2007 is better than Office 2003, or why my firm forced me to adopt Office 2007

Because once you learn office 2007 (far, far less complicated than anything else you're dealing with) it is head and shoulders above 2003 in pretty much every measurable way. As for why your firm moved to it, you'd have to ask them, but the "i already know how to use ____, why should I upgrade?" mentality has created huge pockets of law firms that still use WordPerfect, so while it sounds good in the short term, it has consequences.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:44 PM on January 2, 2010

There is some good advice here, but there's a pretty big issue which every single answer so far has missed.

That issue is this: docx is an illegal standard which cannot legally be supported by Microsoft after next week. This is a fairly big issue, so I've been surprised at how little airplay it's gotten; mostly, I'm sure this is because Microsoft's PR people have been hard at work. The fact is that the Microsoft XML standard which docx is based on has been deemed patent-infringing code, and therefore Microsoft has been barred, by a court order, from selling any more copies of Word and the rest of Office so long as the offending XML formats (docx and xlsx, for example) are part of it. Microsoft has sort of been scrambling for the last few weeks, rushing to replace copies of Office on store shelves and churning out updates for existing users.

So keep this in mind: you can still save each file as a .doc in Word, and you should. If you convert everything to docx next week, you will soon discover that anyone with a newer version of Word can't open your files. Basically, you'll be using a format only available to people who bought Office within a two-year window - and that seems silly. This isn't an issue of having to update at some point anyway - you'll never actually have to move to docx format, and in fact you'll just have to move back to doc anyway, so why not do it now?
posted by koeselitz at 1:33 AM on January 3, 2010

alcahofa: “we have stayed with microsoft 2004 for a while because 2008 generates docx files that no one can read.”

Well, as many people have pointed out: Microsoft Office 2007 does not only generate docx files; it can generate doc files and a whole bunch of other types as well.

But if you'd rather not even be able to generate docx files, then as I said above your solution is simple: just wait two weeks. After January 11th, no new copy of Microsoft Office will include the capability to create those noxious docx and xlsx files. So - everybody wins!
posted by koeselitz at 1:37 AM on January 3, 2010

(Also, keep those links to the articles about the court cases around; you won't believe how gratifying it'll be when you get another one of those goddamned docx files from somebody, and you can shoot back an article about how docx files are illegal and moreover that there is no converter for them available anymore.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:43 AM on January 3, 2010

koselitz is overstating the case about the legal action against Microsoft. The injunction was against CustomXML, a minor and seldom used feature of the .docx (and .xlsx) formats, not against the file format itself. The .docx format is still legal and still shipping. The converter is still available.

BTW, that converter link also inclues a table of exactly how the converter "garbles" the .docx files (for instance, converting equations to static graphics) which might be helpful to you.
posted by zanni at 2:26 AM on January 3, 2010

Will the converter be available after January 11th, though? It was my understanding that it wouldn't. But looking now, it's clear that those articles are pretty vague about what's being removed.

I'll have to read up more on what's involved. If Microsoft's bloated XML documentation - which was only created in order to, as they put it, "embrace, extend, and extinguish" the competition, not to create any really valuable format - weren't so damned long I might have read through it a while ago.

posted by koeselitz at 4:09 AM on January 3, 2010

Response by poster: from this discussion, i was inclined to move to .docx until the point was made that it will be illegal on january 11th. so that raises the whole question of how MS responds to that. which noone knows at this time. my strategy is to wait a month and then ask you all what happened.

thanks very much.
posted by alcahofa at 9:59 PM on January 3, 2010

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