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March 24, 1997

Word 97 import filter solves one file-format gotcha

I reported last week on a partial work-around for problems that Microsoft Word 97 has been having when opening some Word 6.0 and 95 documents, and vice versa. Clicking Tools, Options in older versions of Word, then clicking the Save tab and turning off Fast Saves forces Word to write a new file when saving changes, instead of merely appending changes to the end of a file. This prevents a problem in which minor internal errors -- that don't affect Word 6.0 or 95 -- prevent Word 97 from reading a .DOC file.

There are several other "gotchas" about the new version of Word and its relationship to its older brethren.

First, my two cents about upgrades. I've never installed a major upgrade of any Microsoft product without running into major headaches. Whether it's macros that don't convert correctly, file formats that don't open, or whatever, I always have to spend several hours tinkering with my data and settings before I'm comfortable with my production system.

I believe it's caused by marketing's demands for Microsoft products to be released before the "unimportant" parts are finished. Well, when your business depends on one of those parts working, it suddenly becomes very important to you when you upgrade.

So I'm not the first in line to upgrade to a major new version. I know one IS manager who says he's "proud to be two years behind the state of the art." Everything probably works well enough in his company, although I myself wouldn't want to go quite that far away from the cutting edge.

In a company with a mixture of Word 97 and 6.0 or 95 in use, it's common for the Word 97 users to save files using the Save As Word 6.0/95 option. Unfortunately, this doesn't truly create a Word 6.0 or 95 format file. Instead, it produces a new flavor of RTF, which has been an ongoing Microsoft experiment for the past eight years or so.

A Word 97 file saved as RTF can be twice as big as a "normal" Word 95 file. This is partially because graphics are saved in a flat bit-map format rather than compressed. (A bit map can consume as much as 10 times its original Word 97 size this way.)

The RTF files have an extension of .RTF instead of .DOC. This makes them somewhat invisible to Word 95 users, whose software defaults to .DOC when opening files.

Worst of all, when some OLE objects are embedded in a Word 97 file, then saved as RTF, they remain in Office 97 format. This makes them useless in Office 4.x or 95.

Microsoft promises a new Save As Word 6.0/95 filter soon, but that won't solve all the real problems. The new filter will default to saving files with a .DOC extension, and it will compress graphics, but it will still save a Word document as an RTF file. The real Word 6.0/95 add-in isn't expected until the third quarter of this year.

A better work-around for mixed Word 95 and 97 companies is to give all the older Word users a copy of Microsoft's Word 97 Import filter. Get Wrd97cnv.exe at Or get it off the Office 97 CD-ROM in D:\Valupack\Wrd97cnv (where D: is your CD-ROM drive). Running this file once installs it into older Word versions. This won't make all Word 97 features work in Word 95, but it's a start.

I'd like to thank my Windows 95 Secrets co-author, Davis Straub, for sending me some of this information.

Brian Livingston is the co-author of Windows 95 Secrets Gold and four other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

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