Google Docs to support older Microsoft Office formats until Jan. 31

In late September, Google announced that, starting on October 1st, Google Docs users would not be able to download documents in the .doc, .xls, and .ppt formats, which were used by Microsoft Office from 1997 to 2003. As we noted at the time, there are a lot of businesses and consumers that might still have the older versions of Microsoft Office installed on their PCs and that this move by Google could be a problem for them.

This week, Google revealed that it has decided to change this rather abrupt decision. In a post on the official Google Apps page, the company said:

We recognize that some of our customers would like more time before the change goes into effect. As you may have noticed, that change did not go into effect on October 1. In order to support our customers and help them through the transition, we have delayed the export format change for scheduled release track customers until January 31, 2013.

This move will certainly please many Google Docs and older Microsoft Office users, many of which protested the original decision in comments on Neowin's original story.

This week's blog post added that Google Docs has recently put in support for exporting files in the format that are native to the more recent versions of Microsoft Office, such as docx, .xlsx, and .pptx. It added, "To continue adding new features and innovations to Google Docs, we’ll be focusing our resources on exporting to these newer open formats rather than the older, proprietary Office formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt) that were used in Office 97-2003."

Source: Google Apps blog | Image via Google

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17 Comments

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Seems very stupid to me, loads of businesses and educational institutions all over the world still use DOC files. Its generally accepted as the better format to maintain compatibility with earlier versions.

They can still import them within Google Docs/Drive. They just won't be able to export the documents to DOC afterwards.

The DOC format was never open and had to be reverse-engineered, so 100% compatibility isn't easily achievable. The OOXML (ie: DOCX) format is documented and can be implemented with better accuracy.

On top of that, these institution can install the Office Compatibility Pack for prior versions of Office so they have no excuses.

So Good luck communicating with offices that can't upgrade their .doc & .xls format because of some legacy system in use (like banks and insurance companies). I'm glad I never switched. Office 365 FTW!!

vhaakmat said,
So Good luck communicating with offices that can't upgrade their .doc & .xls format because of some legacy system in use (like banks and insurance companies). I'm glad I never switched. Office 365 FTW!!

It's called the Compatibility Pack. And this is only for exporting FROM google docs.

CentralDogma said,
This looks like it's just for exporting. I can still upload doc, .xls, and .ppt formats and Google docs will read them?

did you read the article?

The .docx and other xml based formats will have been in use as default by Microsoft Office for 6 years at the end of January. I think that's a reasonable amount of time.

m-p{3} said,
Less code maintenance for a feature that would gradually have less and less users anyway.

I still think that dropping this support entirely even in 6 months will kill google docs. what if I have an old document? well.... anyways its their choice. I am using skydrive anyway why would I care?

m-p{3} said,
Less code maintenance for a feature that would gradually have less and less users anyway.

Why would this code have to be "maintained" if it exists right now and works?

_dandy_ said,

Why would this code have to be "maintained" if it exists right now and works?


Because future changes to Docs could break this code. The old office file formats have been reverse engineered because they are completely proprietary, and will never have exact compatibility with Microsoft Office itself. The new format is much better for google because the new format (OOXML) is standardised and easier to work with for better Microsoft Office compatibility. Microsoft offer a compatibility pack for Office 2000, XP, 2003 to handle OOXML files. I don't think anyone still uses anything older than that.