How to turn off Compatibility Mode

Whenever you open a file in Office, check if you see “Compatibility Mode” in the title bar…

Compatibility Mode

In most cases you may not even see the XLS extension.

Compatibility mode is your enemy

Do you know the meaning of Compatibility Mode?

It is bad news! It means…

You are using a new version of Office but you have opened an older version file. Therefore, Office is downgrading itself and behaving as though it was Office 2003!

Did you know that?

In short, you are not going to get most of the new features of the new version. For example, even if you have Excel 2013, you will get only 65000 rows, not 1 million rows. Like this, hundreds of new features will either be disabled or work partially in compatibility mode.

You or your company spent money to buy the latest version… but you are not going to get any returns from that investment Sad smile

Solution is simple

Step 1: Notice the Compatibility Mode problem

This is easy. As soon as you open a file – check if it is showing compatibility mode. Even if file extension is not shown, compatibility mode will be shown for older files.

Step 2: Convert the file to new format

Think a little and confirm that the file is safe to convert. (Read below)

File – Save As – Save in the new format.

Old formats are (XLS, DOC, PPT), new formats end with X like XLSX, DOCX, PPTX. If the file has macros, it must be saved with the M extension like XLSM, DOCM, PPTM

For Word and Excel, the Compatibility Mode goes away as soon as you save the file in the new format. Problem solved.

In case of Excel, one more step is required. Close the file and reopen it. Now the problem is solved.

My customers are demanding old version files

Absolutely genuine problem. But that does not mean you should not get benefits of the new version you already have. So the idea is simple. While you are working on the file, use it in new format. Just before sending it to the customer, save it as a copy in old format.

Warning: Editing older file by mistake

What did you just do? You opened an XLS file, Saved it as XLSX and reopened it. Now in your File Open list, both files are seen – which is very dangerous.

While opening the file, you may open the older file and edit it without realizing it. Worse still, you may edit both files at different points of time and then get completely confused in life. So what is the solution?

The list of recently opened files gets flushed out as and when more files are opened. But keeping both (old and new) files visible there is undesirable.

Don’t worry – even this problem has been thought of by Office team. Just right click on the older file entry in the Recent Files list and choose Remove

Compatibility Mode in Excel

Precautions to be taken

Changing the file to new version is definitely a good decision. But it has one disadvantage – it changes the file name.

Therefore, if this file is being used by another file in a link, that link will still point to the older version file. This can lead to dangerous situation of you viewing outdated data in the linked file.

That is why you have to check if the file you are about to convert is linked to any other file. Unfortunately if another file is linked to the current file, the linkage information is in the linked file. So there is no technically sure way of finding out linkages. You will have to rely on your (or your team’s memory) for this.

If you find files which are linked to the current file, you must change the linkages. This is done by going to File – Edit Links – Select the linked file – Change Source – Choose the new format file.

IT Notes

Users can convert files to new format one by one – as and when they open old files. But for corporate repositories, you need a heavy duty bulk conversion tool.

This tool is called OMPM (now superseded by Office Telemetry). Go to TechNet Office Resource Kit for details.

2 Responses

  1. Very useful. This subtlety is most missed “feature”. Microsoft should have a warning “New features will be unavailable” or something.

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