Microsoft has rebuffed reports that lack of backward compatibility in its Office 97 product is causing users problems.
According to US reports, corporate users are finding incompatibilities between Office 95 and Office 97 files "unacceptable" when attempting to share documents. Because of changes to the file format, converters must be used to translate files from the old version to the new. The converters are available from the Microsoft Web site.
Microsoft played down the problems. "No-one's ever said that the file format change was not a potential problem, but we have solutions," said Guy Swarbrick, a UK product manager at the company. "We roll this out as everybody else does, so we know what the problems are."
With the converters, Office 95 users can view Office 97 files. There is also a feature in Office 97 that allows files to be saved in Office 95 format. This can be set as the default save, for organisations where both Office 95 and 97 are in use.
Netscape, which is helping Corel with the development of its office suite, claimed Microsoft's backward compatibility problem won't go away until the company changes its business model.
"Proprietary file formats such as .doc are dead, and when Microsoft fully supports html as Netscape does, then file translation and incompatibility will be things of the past," said Sam Sethi, Netscape's UK product manager.
Microsoft insisted that changes to file formats are sometimes necessary to incorporate new functionality. "It's a bizarre argument that we should restrict the functionality of our products to get rid of compatibility issues," said Swarbrick.
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