Here’s a report concerning file formats, Microsoft and MS Office 2003. In a slightly under-publicised move, it turns out that Service Pack 3 for MS Office 2003 removed the opyion of opening older file formats. These file formats include Word 6.0 and Word 97 for Windows, Word 2004 for Macintosh, along with older versions of Excel, PowerPoint, Lotus Notes, Corel Quattro spreadsheet, and the Corel Draw graphics package.

It’s a pretty good example of why MS cannot be allowed to control a supposedly open standard for office file formats – witness the dubious shenanigans as MS attempts to have OOXML certified as a standard. It’s just not in MS’ nature to be open about proprietary formats, especially where these are key to the market dominance of their premier product.

Fortunately, we have an alternative: OpenOffice.org – a full-featured suite of office applications, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It supports the genuinely open standard, open document, and furthermore has the capacity to deal with the older MS Office file formats that MS don’t want you to work with.

More on why MS OOXML is a bad idea, dubious ISO committee work, and other stories (from an anti-OOXML point of view.

On the other hand, my work PC has MS Office 2003, with service pack 3, and it can open word files I created back in 1999, which according to “properties” are Word 97-2003 format (whatever that is). So I don’t know how serious a problem this might be. Upon trying to open an old Word file created in 1993, I get an error message.