Changing Office 2007’s default document format

Recently at work we upgraded our office suite to Office 2007. By default, Office saves documents in a new proprietary format from Microsoft that is totally incompatible with previous versions of Microsoft Office. We deal with a number of people outside our organization who of course don’t have the kind of money to be forced to upgrade, so we simply changed our default file format to the previous .doc format.

Here are instructions on changing the default Word option; you’ll need to change it in PowerPoint and Excel in basically the same way.

  1. Open Microsoft Word 2007.
  2. Click the “Office Button” (found at the top left of your screen), and at the bottom of that list click “Word Options.”
  3. The “Word Options” window will open. Now click “Save” in the left panel.
  4. On the right-hand panel, change the top option which reads “save files in this format” from “Word Document (*.docx)” to “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc).”
  5. Click “OK” and you’re done.


The button to change options in Word 2007
The options button in Word 2007.

Setting the default file format in Word 2007
Setting the default file format in Word 2007.

You can also ask everybody else to download and install a converter for their Microsoft Office software, so they can open and read the documents you send them. But why not use the ISO-approved, vendor-neutral Open Document Format (ODF)?

Microsoft will be adding support for ODF soon to Microsoft Office anyway:

“ODF has clearly won,” said Stuart McKee, referring to Microsoft’s recent announcement that it would begin natively supporting ODF in Office next year and join the technical committee overseeing the next version of the format.

If you’re facing the choice to “lock” your data within a proprietary format, you should go into the decision with your eyes wide open. Know the reasons you’re placing your data into a format that you’re forbidden from modifying or extending. Be sure to look behind and through common buzzwords such as “open,” or the magic “XML.” Can you really get the data out of there? Or transform it however you please?