Help File: Running older versions of Office in Windows 7

Sunday, December 6, 2009; G02

Q: I'm replacing my old PC with a new Windows 7 model but don't want to replace my Office 97 applications with a new package that does essentially the same work.

A: I don't agree that Office 97 is quite the same thing as the current Office 2007, but let's set that aside: How can you tell if an older program will run in Windows 7? The answer may not be simple.

You should begin by visiting http://microsoft.com/windows/compatibility. There, you can search for a product in Microsoft's Windows 7 compatibility database or download Microsoft's free Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which you can run on the old computer to get a report on your software's readiness for Microsoft's new operating system.

That page's database lists Office 2007 and 2003 as "Compatible." But it files the older Office 2000 and Office 97 releases under an "Action recommended" category -- that action being "Get paid upgrade," though no details are offered about what's wrong with those editions-- and doesn't seem to cover Office XP at all.

Stranger yet, an older tech-support note says Office 2000 and XP, as well as 2003 and 2007, are "all supported on Windows Vista." Asked to clarify the status of those older releases in Vista's successor, a Microsoft spokesman wrote that they "may work but have not been tested" and added that "we are not hearing about any issues from customers."

Postings on Microsoft's tech-support forum suggest that Office 2000 can work in Win 7 with some tweaking, while Office 97 can be trickier.

If you're set against paying for a new copy of Office, also consider the free, open-source OpenOffice (http://openoffice.org) or Google's free, Web-hosted Google Documents (http://docs.google.com).

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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