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2/5/2007
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Gartner: Deploy Office 2007 File Converters Now

Trying to mix prior versions of Microsoft's suite with the new Open XML default will leave workers bemused and befuddled, analysts predict.

Enterprises should gear up now for Microsoft Office 2007 even if they've decided not to upgrade, by equipping workers with tools to handle the suite's new document file formats, a Gartner analyst recommended.

"Whether you adopt Office 2007 or not, your organization will be affected by the new document format it introduces, because you can't control the format in which users outside your organization will send documents to users within your organization," said Michael Silver in a research note posted to the Gartner Web site. Silver also warned companies some workers might themselves install Office 2007 on company-owned systems -- laptops, presumably -- to muddy the format waters.

Office 2007 introduced a new file native file format -- Open XML -- which the suite's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications save to by default.

Microsoft-made converters should be deployed, advised Silver, so that Office 2000, Office XP, and Office 2003 applications are able to open and save the Open XML formats used by Office 2007. The converters are available from the Microsoft download site.

Failure to add these converters, said Silver, will result in lower productivity as workers try to figure out why they can't open certain files, and a corresponding increase in calls to company help desks.

While Silver focused on the Windows editions of Office, he ignored Mac users. Microsoft's Mac development team has promised early versions of file converters for Mac Office applications sometime in March or April, with the final converters shipped 6 to 8 weeks after the release of Office 2008 for Mac; that upgrade is scheduled to ship in the second half of 2007.

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