Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Office 2007 introduces a new XML based file format for its documents. There's a download for older versions off office to read and write the new format.

I have Microsoft Office 2003 on my computer. Friends of mine are sending me e-mail with attachments but are using Office 2007. Is there any way to convert Office 2003 to open e-mails from Office 2007?

Office 2007 introduces a new file format which is, of course, incompatible with previous versions of Microsoft office. So if you receive a document that someone has saved in Office 2007 format, but all you have is an earlier version of Office that can't read it, there are some steps you need to take.

But I also need to nit-pick one part of your question as well.

You asked "Is there any way to convert Office 2003 to open e-mails from Office 2007?" Emails should open just fine. Email messages are sent and received in a format common to all mail programs, and no conversion should be necessary.

You should also be able to save any attached documents. Again, attachments themselves are encoded into email in a standard way that has not changed. It's the format of the attached files themselves that has changed, and the program that's used to open the attached files needs to be able to handle their new file format.

You could, of course, ask your friends to save their files in the older format. This isn't the first time Office has changed formats, Microsoft Office has a fine track record of being able to save in older formats each time they change to new ones. Your friend could save his file in Office 2003 format before he sends it to you and you'd be able to read it like nothing changed.

What's unique this time is that Microsoft has made converters available for older versions of Office.

Download and install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. (Take special care to read the Overview on that page - it's important that you have all High Priority updates from Microsoft Update installed before you install the converters.)

The compatibility pack works with Office 2000, Office XP and Office 2003.

Article C2957 - March 8, 2007 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Dan ullman
March 9, 2007 9:04 AM

".. pack works with Office 200.."

It only feels that old Leo (grin)

Leo Notenboom
March 9, 2007 9:16 AM

Whoopsie. Thanks - fixed. :)

Michael Horowitz
March 10, 2007 9:54 AM

It seems as if Microsoft is trying to push Office 2007 by excluding people without an old version of Office from viewing files in the new format.

Up till now, Microsoft has offered free Viewer programs for the office applications which let people with Open Office, Works, the Corel suite or whatever, view files created in Office. There doesn't seem to be a viewer program for Word 2007 or for Excel 2007 (there is one for PowerPoint 2007). I wonder why.

The advantage of a stand-alone viewer program is that it is less intrusive than updating an older version of Office and less likely to cause a problem (always a possibility with any patch/update). Then again, it is a viewer, not an updater.

Leo Notenboom
March 10, 2007 10:45 AM

Hash: SHA1

- - From the MS page linked to above:

"The Compatibility Pack can also be used in conjunction with the
Microsoft Office Word Viewer 2003, Excel Viewer 2003, and PowerPoint
Viewer 2003 to view files saved in these new formats."

Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


Anne Dakmak
March 10, 2007 2:02 PM

comment re Office 2007 related to question Microsoft Word with Office 2001 and was not backed up when XP replaced ME and I have 6 CDs but am told that this should be for a NEW Computer...what trouble might I incur to try to download the CDs and then use 2007?
I currectly use Open Office but I miss Microsoft Word for many other applications.

March 11, 2007 11:58 AM

thanx Leo! this article was really helpful!

Archie Galloway
March 19, 2007 4:21 PM

I am trying to open an excel 2007 file on a PC that has Office 2003, I loaded the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack File Formats, but I still get an error saying "The converter could not convert the file." Can you help me?

July 2, 2007 2:26 AM

cool xD

April 2, 2008 12:33 AM

Dear Leo,

My notebook is on Win Vista with MS Office 2003. Recently I have been received mails with attachments of office documents(Word or Excel without the usual extensions ie .doc or .xls) which I can only opened when I clicked on it and tried wither to "open with" either excel or word.

I have downloaded and installed both OCONVPCK file , File Format Converters as well as Compatibility Files.

Unfortunately, the problem persists. It will not auto convert files whereby I can open straight away as it is.

Pls help! Thanks.

June 25, 2008 11:53 PM

see if you can install this update for office. It should allow you
to view docx files and convert them to regular doc files.

The update is here:

Rhonda Chin
July 30, 2008 12:39 PM

Thanks for the help! Worked like a charm!

August 5, 2008 6:23 AM

i am having set of xlsx and pptx files, need to convert those to xls and ppt. but the command line is not doing any help.

I have downloaded the office compatibility pack and installed, then i tried for the xlsx to xls conversion

c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12>excelcnv -oice c:\xl.xlsx c:\xl.xls

it gives out a xl.xls but its just the copy of my input xlsx file when i open that file in the office 2000 it gives error. i just renamed the xl.xls to, now i can see the xmls inside. so it just created the copy of my input file and renamed it to xl.xls.

Any help on this highly appreciated.


December 15, 2008 7:35 AM

Dear leo,
i want to attach my resume at a website which is in i can change it in doc,docs file extension.

Fred Stella
January 9, 2009 3:18 PM

I just installed Office Pro '07 over my old Office 2000. The new program comes up fine, but won't open my old docs. I did download all the updates & the service pack that is mentioned above. Still nothing. Any other ideas?

January 27, 2009 2:29 AM

Vista machines are being rolled out to clients with Win2007 MSOffice, which produces files with new file extensions, which our process does not recognize.Need to Update our process to handle the new file extensions produced in MSOffice 2007.
1.Please tell us what type of code chnges required ?
2. Do we need the new jar for this?

Bev Fisher
April 27, 2009 4:43 PM

Hi Leo
I have Microsoft Office Word 2007 and my researcher in America is asking me to switch to a lower version so they can open an attachment I sent from Australia. Can you please help?
With thanks, Bev

Did the instructions in the article that you just commented on not help?
- Leo

Arthur J Gross
September 9, 2009 8:00 AM

Article says pack only works as far back as Office 2000. I still use Office 97, and it's really all I need so I don't want to upgrade. Is there a compatibility pack available to work with Word 97?

Not that I'm aware of. After 12 years it might be time to upgrade.

October 4, 2009 1:27 PM

hi leo,
this is m and the thing is i got the same problem as same as other mentioned above , in the above information furnished it says about to have the all high priority updates from
microsoft update install,before anyone install the converter
so , can u let me know how to check whether
i have updates to install the converter for the files of 2007 office documents.

October 28, 2009 9:51 AM

Hello Leo, I have just installed all the Windows XP and Office Updates (also the "High Priority" of course). I installed also the recommended "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats" But when I try to open an Excel 2007 file my office 2003 seems to open it but keep eating CPU time and running forever without let me read or work in the file... Can you help me, please? Thanks!

November 9, 2009 12:49 PM

cannot open either word 2003 or 2007 in office 2007. used to have office 2003 and recently changed to 2007. when i try to open, it says "not available" what should i do?

Pat Wheeler
March 8, 2010 4:45 PM

I am trying to send out a newsletter, but some of my people are unable to open it. I have word 2007 Vista. The person before me was using word 2003 and apparently had no problems. Any suggestions? Do I download the compabality pack or is that for the people with 2003?

Leo Poernama
April 15, 2010 4:50 AM

Hi Leo,

I have an problem when I send XLS file using Excel 2007 to my colleague which uses Excel 2003 and has already downloaded Ms Compability pack. The format that I made are gone. The file come without any format.
Do you have any idea ?

May 21, 2010 9:11 AM

hi, leo, i recently bourght a hp laptop with a win7 home os and a 2007 office 60day trial pack after a mnth i reinstalled 2003 office dat am very farmiliar with, but ever since then i have been having one issue after another, most files i have saved earlier on 2007 word cant open. the system has been forced to shut down on several occassions. HELP

July 16, 2010 10:44 AM

Hi Leo, they switched my M Office from 2003 to 2007, I now use MS Off 2007 excel, it has a pale blue format all over the place how can i change this new "screen-template" etc to the older 2003 version, which was much simpler in appearance and easier on the eyes. any help in changing the appearance to the older version is helpful.

(just in case i'm confusing, i like the older version of "classic windows" screen (etc) to the new(er Win XP screen.

thanks !

I'm not aware of a way to get what you're looking for in Office. The visual layout was a pretty major change, and I don't believe they included a way to revert of "look something like it used to".

George C Sievers
September 15, 2010 7:14 AM

I install the Compatibility package for Office 2003 on my Windows 7 system a couple of months ago. Since that time NO Windows updates from MS for office have successfully installed. There is no mention of this specific problem on MS sites. The specific error code was 52F.

yakil subba
June 9, 2011 4:27 AM

Hello sir I have .xls files which cannot open in ms office excel 2007. how to open it please sugest.

Mark J
June 9, 2011 9:49 AM

Your .xls files are probably corrupted.

Comments on this entry are closed.

If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.

If you don't find your answer, head out to to ask your question.