What’s the best format for maximum compatibility of MS Word documents?

Shawn April 7, 2010
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I need to create some documents that will basically serve as a “template form” that will be filled out and printed daily. It has a header with company logo and title, the body is just a table with cells serving as labels or entry fields and the footer is just a “Page X of X”.

I pretty much have the thing done, but before I pass it out and have everyone start using it, I was curious if there is a specific format I should save in, to ensure it can be opened AND printed from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Microsft Office 2003, Microsoft Office 2007…and have be visually indistinguishable on paper. Also, if there is any formatting tips (i.e. margins, % vs absolute table widths) for the same reason. These are work computers, so I won’t have any control over OS or software versions, or the ability to apply updates or addons.

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  1. pceasies
    June 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I'd recommend rtf for maximum compatibility. Should work with any program you try it with (with the exception of Notepad)

    • Guest
      June 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm

      Thank you for including Linux in the compatibility consideration.

  2. fruitgeek
    May 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Word 97-2003 (or 2004, I forget which) - .doc is a good format, could also convert to pdf with pdf995 or an online service like zamzar.com

  3. Aibek
    April 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I would recommend .doc.

  4. Taty
    April 10, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Mostly, if you can, create the document on an older version of office, pre docx. That way you can be sure all parts of it can be read equally by older and newer versions and hardware alike. docx is a headache. Stay away from it.

  5. Jack Cola
    April 8, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    The best format would be .doc Unless of course, people with Office 2003, don't have the Office 2007 compatibility pack, they won't be able to view or save .docx files which is the Word 2007 default file format. If it's only going to be used on a Windows PC with Microsft Products, I would suggest .doc. If most people will view it on Word 2007, then I would choose .docx. Also, if you create the document in Word 2007, and you try and convert it, some features might not work and would be removed such as Bibliography references.

    It really depends what features you have. So .doc for compatibility, .docx for features.

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