MPs hit by Office 2003, Word 2007 incompatibility

MPs hit by Office 2003, Word 2007 incompatibility

Summary: Microsoft is working with Westminster IT chiefs to resolve politicians' complaints that they are unable to read some correspondence

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Microsoft is working with Westminster technology chiefs after politicians and peers complained of being unable to open the latest Word documents.

The Mircrosoft Office 2003 software used by the UK's 646 MPs and 742 peers is incompatible with Microsoft Word 2007 document formats, leaving politicians and civil servants unable to read some correspondence.

The problem was raised in the House of Lords information committee annual report, published yesterday. Committee member Lord Methuen said: "A program can be downloaded to read the documents, but obviously not everybody knows how to do this. Pict [the Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology Service] is working with Microsoft to resolve this problem."

A spokesman for Pict said: "The work to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007 for parliamentary network users is still a matter under investigation. It is expected that all issues of compatibility will be identified and resolved during that investigation."

MPs' email inboxes are also bursting at the seams, according to the report, leading to an agreement to increase the size of their email allowances.

Widespread wireless internet connectivity also beckons for Westminster, with the Lords' committee asking Pict to carry out a feasibility study into providing wireless access across the parliamentary estate, in addition to existing coverage in the Royal Gallery, Library Reading Rooms and the Chamber.

The report also reveals that MPs are lobbying to be able to place clips of themselves in the House of Commons on YouTube, and that members and peers want to embed official parliamentary video on their personal websites. Both matters will need further consideration before approval is given, according to the report.

Full virtual tours of parliament will also be available on the parliament website by the end of 2009, according to the report, building on the House of Lords Chamber and Library tours already on the site.

Over the past year, the Lords' committee also approved plans for an e-library within the proposed Members' Library in the refurbished 1 Millbank offices. The e-library will include about 20 workstations and wall-mounted plasma screens to give MPs and staff access to training, information and email.

The report also reveals that a parliamentary education centre, due to open in 2012, will include videoconferencing facilities and is expected to host about 100,000 visitors per year.

Topic: Tech Industry


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Just use Open Office instead - it's FREE!

    Now is NOT a good time to be buying expensive Microsoft software when perfectly good FREE alternatives exist that *don't* have these incompatibility problems!
  • So Westminster really put a lot of thought into the rollout of 2007

  • Office 2003, Word 2007 incompatibility

    When you choose to dance with the devil you have to pay for the band.
  • This is not new...

    I don't understand how anyone can be surprised by this. It is certainly not the first time Microsoft has done it, and it obviously isn't going to be the last (OOXML).

    On the occasions I have run into it, I've used it as a foot in the door for OpenOffice, explaining that OO 3.0 can read Office 2007 (docx) format. In almost every case, the user has ended up liking OpenOffice so much better than MS Office that they have simply switched completely over.

    I know it isn't that easy in big organizations, especially big government organizations, but it's a start...

  • Simple Answer

    Download the free Office Compatibility pack which is designed to resolve this issue.
  • Save as 2003 .doc should be highlighted

    It's that simple really, save as a 2003 .doc document is right in there and should really have a pointer to it. It only operates in the save as mode. If you dont know it's there, pre name your document, and click the save icon, your going to get .docX by default and that's where the woe begins.

    Particularly bad if your a student or job hunter at home sending .docX atttachments to business computers that will only read the older formats. I wonder what the reason for not pre warning the home user is?
    roger andre
  • Irritate the User into Upgrading

    Do you really wonder why they don't warn about the incompatible document format? They didn't do it the last time they made this kind of change, either, so it is no surprise. In my opinion this goes in the same category as the hated Vista "UAC" - MS decided that they could advance their agenda by irritating the user. What percentage of ordinary users do you think will either never find out about the "free" document format converter, or will not have the confidence or ability to download and install it, and so will just give up and upgrade to MS Office 2007? At that point, it is "mission accomplished", one more notch in the belt for Microsoft.

    This is one of the primary reasons why recommending or helping with an Office upgrade is the absolute LAST thing on my list. When confronted with someone who has this problem, the steps are simple:

    - Recommend 3.0. Several times. It is the one sure way to end up with a HAPPY user out of this; all the other options consist of putting band-aids on MS botches.

    - If they are on pre-2007 Office, and the problem is their receiving documents, download and install the Office document format converter patch.

    - If they are on Office 2007, and the problem is with others receiving their documents, show them how to save in Office 2003 format, as well as others that might be useful.

    As Ator said previously, if you choose to "dance with the devil", you have to pay for the orchestra; if you choose to continue to dance with the same devil, after seeing the perils and having to solve one problem... well.... keep a good supply of band-aids on hand.

    jw 28/11/2008
  • Would Open Office help?

    I have Ubuntu Linux, with
    Open Office included. A nice
    feature is that I compose a message,
    or reply, with Open Office, and
    then export the file to PDF format.

    I've also heard of the Open Document
    Standard, and there's a Web page
    to sign a petition to support the
    Open Document Format:
    (among perhaps other things; the
    petition statement is lengthy).

    I think a good idea is to learn
    what's available.

    David Bernier
  • Thick or just dumb

    If a MP can't solve the little office discrepancy then it bodes ill for parliamentary common sense and basic practicality. Seems that all they want to do is exhibit themseves on their website so we can see how great they are.