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Microsoft Office 2007: New File Formats

In addition to a brand new interface, Microsoft Office 2007 also introduced significantly different file formats. Although you dont have to understand the specifics, the file formats are based on the new Office Open XML Formats (XML is short for Extensible Markup Language). This change in file naming and format can create some huge obstacles as Office 2007 users share files with everyone else.

The change to these XML-based formats supports new features and helps make your documents:

  • Safer by separating files that contain scripts or macros, making it easier to identify and block unwanted code or macros.
  • Smaller in file size.
  • Less susceptible to damage or file corruption.

For most people using Microsoft Office 2007, the change in file format will likely be seen in the file extensions used for naming files. Conversion options are available on both sides but require patience and knowledge to build a successful strategy for exchanging Office files.

How Has File Naming Changed?

In earlier versions of Microsoft Word, files were saved with the .doc extension, Microsoft Office Word 2007 files now use the .docx and .docm file extensions. Excel workbooks have exchanged their .xls file ending for new .xlsx or .xlsm extensions in Excel 2007. Presentations in PowerPoint have long been saved with a .ppt ending whereas, now, in Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007, the file extensions are either .pptx or .pptm. Why multiple options for file name extensions in Office 2007? The differences depend on whether or not a file contains macros or programming code. The letter "m" at the end designates possible macros in a file. Other less commonly used file extensions may also appear on Office 2007 files. Just a reminder: this dramatic change to file formats is much more than just a cosmetic switch in file naming conventions, and so, editing the extension will not convert a file from one type to another.

EASY TIP: How can you tell the difference between Office 2007 and Office 2003 files? View your files from Windows Explorer. The file is an Office 2007 file format if it has a 4-character extension; it is an Office 2003/2002 (or earlier) file format if it has a 3-character extension.

Microsoft Office Access 2007 databases are also saved with a new file format, .accdb, or can be created with the same file format as earlier versions, .mdb, to allow for continued easy access to data. Once an Access database is converted for use with Access 2007, however, it is no longer available for use with earlier versions of Microsoft Access. Notice as well that Access 2007 databases are saved with a 5-character extension.

Office 2007 application

Previous file extension

New file extension

What its used for

Word 2007



Standard Word document with no macros or code.




Word document that could contain macros or code.

Excel 2007



Standard Excel workbook that cannot store macros or code.




Excel workbook that could contain macros or code.

PowerPoint 2007



PowerPoint presentation with no code.




PowerPoint presentation with code.

Access 2007



Converted Access database; can only be used with Access 2007

office 2007, file size, file formats, microsoft office 2007, save
Microsoft Office 2007: New file format reduces file size

File Compatibility Between Versions of Microsoft Office

If you are one of the first in your group to get the Microsoft Office 2007 system, you can still share documents between Office 2007 and earlier version of Office.

Important considerations when working in Microsoft Office 2007:

  • With Office 2007, you can open a file created in Office 95 through Office 2003.
  • When you save a file created in a previous version, the default in the Save As dialog box is to save the file as the same previous version. You can also choose to save the file as a 2007 version.
  • Each Microsoft Office 2007 program can be customized to change the default file format to save as an Office 2003 format.
  • When you save a file as a previous version, a Compatibility Checker will let you know of any Office 2007 features that may be disabled, or matched as closely as possible.
  • Colleagues who have Office 2000 through 2003 can work in your 2007 files using a converter that will let them open your document.

To learn more about how to download conversion tools, head to:

Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.

This article and more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with copyright and attribution.
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Office 2007 Tip
Press [F12] to launch the Save As command when you want to change a file format.
Did You Know?
Most Microsoft Office 2007 files are smaller in size than the same file would be with earlier versions of Microsoft Office.
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