Ensuring Your Excel Workbook is Backwards Compatible

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  • 0:01 Backward Compatibility
  • 0:45 Check Compatibility Feature
  • 3:23 How to Run a…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

Need to send an Excel file to someone with an older version of the application? Not sure if they will be able to open and view the file? This lesson will discuss the Check Compatibility feature in Excel.

Backwards Compatibility

Backwards compatibility is the capability for files created in a newer version of software, such as MS Excel, to be handled by older versions of the application. There are many versions of MS Excel, and it's not uncommon for people to be using something other than the latest and greatest version of MS Office. As a result, it is highly important to ensure that compatibility problems are minimized when dealing with different versions of Excel spreadsheets.

This lesson will discuss how Excel handles compatibility issues. You will also learn how Excel runs a compatibility check automatically when saving a file and how to use the Check Compatibility command.

Check Compatibility Feature

One feature that was introduced in the 2010 version of MS Office products is the Check Compatibility tool. It was included in Word and PowerPoint, as well as Excel.

The Compatibility Checker scans the workbook to see if it contains features that are not supported by earlier versions of Excel. As an added benefit, the feature helps you to make decisions about what to do with the compatibility issues. After completing the check, Excel displays a dialog box detailing the exact issues and options for how to handle them.

A SmartArt graphic is an example of a feature that might not work or display the same in an earlier version of Excel. Although adding a SmartArt graphic using 2013 wouldn't prevent someone with 97 from opening the workbook, it may not look exactly the same, and the recipient wouldn't be able to edit the SmartArt.

I have an example spreadsheet showing a basic cost comparison for living expenses between two cities, Tallahassee and Minneapolis. I have also inserted a SmartArt graphic. Imagine that I want to send this as an email attachment to a friend, but I know that they have Excel 97.

Before I can send the comparison, I will need to use the Save As option in Excel and save the file as an older version of Excel, specifically 97-2003. After I enter the name of the file, select the file type and click on Save, a Compatibility Checker dialogue box opens.

Because we are saving the file as an older version, Excel automatically runs a compatibility check. Excel noticed that there is an element or an occurrence where content in the spreadsheet is not compatible with 97-2003 versions and immediately prompts you with information. The dialogue box displays a summary of the issues, including two links: Find and Help. The Find link takes you to the place in your worksheet. The Help link takes you to information on the issue and possible solutions.

In our example, the summary information in the dialogue box informs us that the object will no longer be editable, and it specifically mentions the shape in Sheet 1. The shape it's referring to is the SmartArt graphic. The information tells you that the shape can't be edited in 97-2003 versions; however, this does not mean that the recipient of the file will not be able to open and view the file.

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