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CONTRIBUTE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
 

Students are complaining that they can't open Office 2007 files from my Contribute site (and also from another web site that I maintain). They don't open with a click or they open a file un-compressor program (Winzip). How can I make these files accessible to my students?

Answer: You can upload Office 2007 files in the usual way in Contribute. Downloading them can be a problem. There are two possible problems (and solutions);

  1. Office 2007 Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in their new native format can't be opened by earlier versions of Office without additional software
  2. Some browsers (notably IE7 and Apple's Safari) download the files as zip files (they actually change the file extension) rather than as Office 2007 documents.The person trying to access the files can't open them directly by clicking a link to an Office2007 document on a web page, but has to download them to their computer. Then they have to go through the additional step of manually changing the file extension to the correct one.
  • To avoid all these steps (and having to explain them), ask your students to use the FireFox browser, available for both Mac and Windows. It works seamlessly with 2007 files.

Here are the explanations. We have only been able to test on Windows XP and Mac OSX.4. Students who have Windows Vista may have slightly different results with the IE7 browser, though the recommended solutions still work:

1: Office 2007 Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in their new native format can't be opened by earlier versions of Office without additional software:

Explanation: Office 2007 creates files with new extensions:

  • Word: Old extension .doc changed to .docx in Office 2007
  • Excel: Old extension .xls changed to .xlsx in Office 2007
  • PowerPoint: Old extension .ppt changed to .pptx in Office 2007

Solution 1: Make it easy for the viewer to download Microsoft software that allows access to Office 2007 docs.

The new Office 2007 files won't open in earlier versions of Office unless the user downloads the free compatibility pack from MS. It is available at:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=941b3470-3ae9-4aee-8f43-c6bb74cd1466&displaylang=en

Solution 2:

Alternately, if you are using Office 2007 and want your files to be available to people who don't have Office 2007, your options are:

  • Save as a pdf file so people can view it with the free acrobat viewer
  • Save as an rtf file, a file format that can be opened in all word processors using the Save As option in 2007
  • Save as an Office97-2003 file (also works for Mac Office 2004) using the Save As option in 2007
  • Provide a link to the Office 2007 compatibility pack with the 2007 format file (most cumbersome for the viewer).

2: Some browsers (notably IE7) download the files as zip files (they actually change the file extension) rather than as Office 2007documents. This is a problem for those who must pass along the files in their Office 2007 formats:

For those teaching Office 2007:

If you must pass along Office 2007 files in their native format (because you are teaching a 2007 application for example), the short solution is to ask your students to use the Firefox browser. It is free and available for both Windows and Mac computers. Then they will be able to open/download Office 2007 docs without problems.

Here are the facts you need to know:

The new file formats ending in x are really several files bundled together and compressed using the zip format.
If you post a 2007 format file in Contribute and a viewer tries to download it, here's what happens (I only list the two main Windows browsers, since you're not going to be teaching Office 2007 to Mac users at this point, and I presume that the user has Office 2007 on the browsing computer).

In Internet Explorer:

The file is automatically read as a .zip file, and will not automatically open in its application inside the browser. The user must save the document to their computer. It will download with a .zip extension. The user then has to manually change the extension to the correct one for the application. Then it will open in its correct Office 2007 program. IE7 screen shot (note the .zip extension on this .docx file):

IE7 Office 2007 message

In Firefox:

Clicking on the link to an Office 2007 document brings up a dialog box asking whether the user wants to open or save the document. Both work: the document either opens in the Office 2007 program or is saved to Firefox's default download folder with the correct extension. Firefox screen shot:

Firefox Office 2007 dialog box


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Last updated: 11/21/2007