New Microsoft Word Creates Problems for Writers

By Michael Stelzner

Have you had trouble opening Word files lately?

If you’re like me, you get these Word docs that end with .docx and can do nothing with the file.

This makes it real hard to operate as a writer or editor of white papers.

For the first time in many years, it seems that Microsoft if forcing those of us with older versions of Word to upgrade.

What gives Bill?

If you are on a Mac, here is the link to a converter that allows you to open these new Word files.

If you are on a PC, download the compatibility pack by clicking here. NOTE: I have heard one person tell me this messed up their existing older version of Word, so proceed with caution.

I understand that Word 2008 for Mac comes out in about a week. Anyone seen a beta on this?

Those of you using Word 2007 for the PC, let me know if it is worth the upgrade.

Receive email updates when new articles are posted.

  • James Chartrand – Web Content Writer Tips

    I have both 2003 and 2007 for PC, Michael. Honestly? The only advantage for me is on-screen word count. You can see it increase as you’re typing. There is no advantage that I can see to the grammar and spell-check, and the rest is just fluff and bling.

    The interface is WILDLY different, so if you do upgrade, plan on not knowing how to do a damned thing until you take a few hours (I’m not kidding) to figure out where Microsoft moved everything to.

    The program isn’t an upgrade or an improvement, in my eyes – it’s a brand new software that you have to relearn to become familiar with. After a month of usage, I reverted back to 2003 and don’t plan on using 2007 again.

  • RickH

    I received a docx file recently. After installing the “Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats” mentioned above, the file opened with no problem. Another option: Ask the sender to use the “save as” feature in Word 2007 to save the file in the previous doc format and resend it (I assume Word 2007 has this feature).

    Isn’t docx is Microsoft’s effort to move into the XML format, which has certain advantages in the online world?

  • JoniB

    I have to use 2007 at work on the new laptop they purchased for me (without my input) which had it already installed. I still can’t find several features. And forget the Help button (Remember – F1!) because Help surely needs help.
    I won’t even start on Vista…..

  • Tom Chandler/Copywriter Underground

    Word 2007′s interface is very different (you’ll note I didn’t say better), and my techie/ubernerd brother has run performance tests on Vista and 2007 that suggest an unhappy future if you don’t have a pretty fast machine.

    The new file format is pretty clearly an attempt by MS to force us to buy their bloatware. As an Open Office User, I’m perfectly happy where I am, and I’m hoping the market shows a little sense on this one.

    You can alwasy google “docx converters” and find a free one, though they’re hardly a good long-term solution.

  • Klaas Besseling

    I use a Mac and yes there is a converter available for .docx but not for .xlsx! Microsoft is completely numb about the subject on their website.

    Word 2004 for Macintosh (and its 2003 PC cousin) are notorious for many bugs in their layout capabilities. I just hope that the 2008 version addresses these issues, but my faith in Microsoft is “limited”.

  • Gina

    I’m not even using Word currently — I’m using OpenOffice (I couldn’t afford to purchase the MS software at the same time as my laptop since it was a hasty purchase when my last computer suddenly became unusable) — and I’m sort of afraid to buy Office because I DO NOT want to go to Vista.

    OpenOffice is fine although occasionally I miss some of the Word features that aren’t quite as nice in OpenOffice. For example I use tables a lot and Word’s table features are simply better.

    Otherwise if you’re in a pinch and can’t get it to convert, try simply renaming the extension to .doc in File Manager. I’d copy the file first and rename the copy, just in case this doesn’t work out happily.

  • James Chartrand – Web Content Writer Tips

    I’d like to extend a word of caution about free software and Open Office. It’s been our experience that the word count isn’t accurate and some other features are lacking. We’ve also had some issues with opening documents.

    Feel free to read about my opinions of free word processors on our blog.

  • Susan

    I use Word 2007 and I had problems at first. But when you’re saving, you can just save it in a file format that is compatible with Word 2003-2006 so editors with the earlier version can read it.

  • Chris Gbekorbu

    I have to use Microsoft Office 2007 at work, and I really don’t like it. The new UI makes it hard to do anything since nothing’s in the familiar place, and I found that a lot of the standard keyboard shortcuts have also been removed (you can add them again, though that’s a pain in itself). While it’s certainly possible to save files in .doc format rather than .docx, .docx (and other .x formats in other 2007 apps) is the default and you can reset the default to .doc, finding the option is a little tricky because of the new UI. I’m also a part-time English professor and accept my assignments in Word format. When I asked students to make sure they sent files as .doc, I had a number who didn’t even know how to do a Save As command (and these are 18-19 year olds) and who couldn’t manage to change the default–that makes me question a little just how many others are capable of such a “simple” saving task. Since I do my personal work in a Linux environment, I use OpenOffice mostly, and the only feature I miss that Microsoft offers is the “Track Changes.” My two cents is to stick with 2003 (and if all you’re using it for is word processing rather than layout–something that Office is terrible at in the first place).

  • ArticleRus

    Soon or later you need to upgrade to the newest version. I have been receiving more & more docx files lately. At first, you will find yourself, like a newbie again like getting to know a new software. But I believe you will find yourself master it on no time. But only 1 problem I heard somewhere that Microsoft will launch a new version every few years.

  • Michael

    You can get used to Office 2007 after a while, but even then it really is no advantage over 2003 for 99% of users. On the Mac the interface difference between the current version of Office and Office 2008 is no where near as drastic. Thankfully they decided not to do the whole ribbon interface thing on the Mac. If you have Mac Work, the Pages word processor will open the .DOCX files from Word 2007.

    As for Open Office, I think it is a great program, just a little slow at times. And again, I know of no one who needs the features it doesn’t have. Feature bloat is just that most of the time – bloat.

    Finally, some of the on-line Office services can also convert the Office 2007 documents. They are a great free way to do conversion, and are also easy to use when on the road in a pinch. There on-line storage also makes a good backup for important files when you are traveling.

  • Pam

    After my initial upgrade shock, I love 2007. I’m a grandma who works fulltime and goes to school fulltime. My favorite feature is the reference feature, because I have to use APA format on all my university papers I submit. With 2007, I can enter my sources once and then just drop citations into my work where I need it, and with one click create a reference list that includes all the references I’ve used. The references follow from one work to the next, so I don’t need to recreate things. I also have a historical list of all my references in case I need to look one up again. If this feature was offered in earlier versions, I never found it.

    Most of my professors haven’t upgraded yet, so if I need to submit assignments electronically, I just save the final version of the file in 2003 format. The in-text citations and references are converted to static text, and I’m ready to go!

    I installed 2007 on my laptop first to get used to it. Then if I needed to pull a paper together really fast without looking for commands, I just used by desktop. Now I have it in both places. I love it.

  • Michael Stelzner

    Wow everyone – It seems as if I will be holding tight on my upgrade to Word 2008 for the Mac. – Mike

  • Louiss

    i still with ms word 2003, this due to the lastest version like 2007 have force me to downgrade. Now even 2008 worst. 2003 still is my favorite. – Louiss

  • Toddie Downs

    Count me in as a fan of Word 2007. There’s a small learning curve to it; for me, the biggest one was knowing to push the Microsoft icon to find the “save as” file. As a matter of courtesy for my clients, I always send them two versions my work – one in the .docx format, and one saved as Word 2003. It takes 5 extra seconds to do that, and then they’re guaranteed to be able to open at least one of the documents. Also, for white paper writing, some of the “bloat” that people are referring to I think could be quite valuable. They’ve made inserting items like flow charts a breeze, and the graphics look amazing. There are also a bunch of Title Page templates, although I can foresee people reaching the point where they can identify a template version from a fully created one. Now, I fully admit to not being as “up” on the graphics and formatting side of white papers as more seasoned pros, but I’ll take help where I can get it, and I consider that help.

  • Linda Harris

    My only objection to Word 2007 is that I can’t customize the “ribbons” like I used to customize my toolbars. I don’t like having to switch between ribbons when I need to do different tasks. The “styles” area takes up so much space, and I never use it. I’d like to have the ones I use the most all on one ribbon. But if this is possible, so far I haven’t figured it out.

  • JenWriter

    Luckily for me, I was able to get the student discount for the new Office 2007 at $60, and I had just purchased a new laptop with no Office on it at all. So, it was worth it for me. However, I doubt it is worth the full price of an upgrade. Do you have to pay for an upgrade?

    Sure, it has a “sleeker” design, and there are a few additional features. It does allow you to save your files in 2003 format, and I do that for all of my school papers since my professors don’t yet have 2007.

    I like it. If you can get it at a discounted price, then I recommend an upgrade. Otherwise, I’d pass.

  • Coursework

    For students who want some writing for their coursework, this is a best site and professional guide

  • Lee

    if you are in a pinch and need to get to using office 2007, here is a program i found to get the classic menu back.

  • Thesis Writing

    Wow! Great sharing

  • Heather von Doehren

    I would have to say I’m also not happy with a lot of the changes (like they took out the ability to save versions! I loved versions! And what’s up with the quick parts?!), but overall I think it is more user-friendly (the ribbon..that is). The save as pdf option is great. The Quick Access toolbar is really the only custom toolbar anyone really needs. I even like the themes.

    If you are still having trouble navigating through Word 07, I made a formatting video for Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression. You can check the video out at:

  • Your Man in Manila

    Used converter for word 2002. Worked great. No issues. I can’t understand how MS can do something like this with no notice to the consumer. Needed a paper for school. Printer down at home so sent doc to school computer. Nothing but jibberish and I had no idea why…researched the net to find the problem. Late to class…Thanks a lot Microsoft! Hmmm…is there a space between the words Open and Office?

  • stormbird

    Does anyone know how to turn off the graphical stuff –rounded and shaded lines and bars, etc.– that makes WORD 2006 run so slowly?

  • Whitney Post

    What About people like me who cant afford the upgrade but are trying to send my resume to potential employers. They arent going to want to take the time to fix the gibberish that my resume turns into when they open it in 2007 because I wrote it in word 2002…ITS BULL so now I have to get the new version so that my resume doesnt get overlooked. IM SO IRRITATED I CANNOT DESCRIBE IT…oh and nevermind that they want $50 to email them a question…no thanks bill, I think Ill just get a mac next time.

  • customwebsitedesign

    yeah, i've had endless issues with clients pasting content into blogs and content management systems from MS Word! :(

  • customwebsitedesign

    yeah, i've had endless issues with clients pasting content into blogs and content management systems from MS Word! :(

write my economics paper