Compatibility Between Different Versions of MS Word

by Matthew Hung

Many CityU colleagues use the Microsoft Word (MS Word) to type their papers, memos, documents, etc. However, there are a number of different versions of MS Word, such as Word 6.0, Word 95, Word 97 and Word 2000 which are divided into the Chinese and English versions. When users send some documents to the others, the recipients may find that they cannot open the documents with their MS Word. Even if the documents can be opened, the Chinese characters in the documents may not be shown properly. These are because the versions used by the senders and the recipients are not the same. Different versions of MS Word may have different file formats. Besides, some versions of MS Word may not support Chinese characters. Even if the other versions do, the methods used to handle the Chinese characters may not be exactly the same. As some users prefer to use the English versions of MS Word with Chinese Enabled System like RichWin or NJStar to prepare their documents, this may yet cause other problems when Chinese documents are transferred and worked on among different versions of MS Word.

In general, later versions of MS Word are backward compatible with earlier versions (same language). For example, Chinese Word 2000 can convert and open documents of all other versions of Chinese Word but not vice versa. As for supporting Chinese characters, Chinese versions of MS Word do not have problems in handling Chinese characters, but some earlier English versions of MS Word may do. For example, English Word 6.0 and Word 95 basically do not support Chinese characters, but users can prepare Chinese documents with these versions of MS Word by using the Chinese enabling system. However, when the documents are shared among these versions, problems may occur.

To access the table that shows the compatibility between different versions of MS Word, please click here. You will notice that both Chinese and English MS Word 2000 (the two latest versions) are compatible in file format and in handling Chinese characters. They can also be backward compatible with all other previous versions. Thus, you are recommended to use the latest version of MS Word. If you need to handle a number of old Chinese documents created by previous versions, Chinese MS Word 2000 would be the better choice. If you need to send a MS Word 2000 document to others, the recipients should use MS Word 2000 or the latest version to open it. However, if you are not sure whether the recipients have these versions, you can save the Word document as RTF format. It is because RTF files can be opened by all versions of MS Word. But the disadvantage of RTF format is that some advanced features in Word 2000 cannot be retained in the file.