Efficient Migration from Microsoft Office File Populations (Part 1 of 2)

by Dr. Uwe Wächter

Migration Office 18When it comes to their archiving, CAD models are very different from Office files. However, many businesses assume that Office files are upwardly compatible, and can still be read, edited and issued after every future version release. That is not always the case. In this 2-part series we’ll show you what you need to know when you want to efficiently migrate your data from Microsoft Office 2003 (and earlier) to Office 2007 (and later)..

Office files are a part of modern development and production processes, and daily business is unimaginable without them. Along with CAD models, Office files contain important information in the form of specifications, descriptions, change notices, evaluations, etc. Both file types are carefully managed in document management or PLM systems in order to document the product life cycle.

CAD models are very different from Office files in regard to document life cycle, however. With an author system upgrade, every company meticulously looks after the migration of CAD models, should their storage be necessary. For Office files it is often assumed that these are upwardly compatible, and can continue to be read, edited and also identically re-issued. Sporadic problems with old data after Office Suite updates is well known. When switching from Office Suite 2003 (and older) to 2007 (and newer) many businesses saw that databases from older versions could not always be used with certainty in the new version.

Microsoft replaced the proprietary, binary Office file format with Open XML with the launch of Office 2007. This change in direction of standard is an important step in creating uniform reproducible and transferable file formats. However, as the standardized, XML-based Open Doc format (ISO/IEC 26300) is still not supported, many observers see this as only a partial success. Indeed, numerous cases still show very different results when reproducing the same files with Office 2003 and Office 2007. What is the standard for reproduction correctness here? It’s simple: The optics in the currently-used version of the respective author system.

Problems with Incompatible Documents

Differences between the versions should not be first discovered upon attempt to reproduce older files in newer software versions during running operations. In practice, however, this is often the case. When this happens, employees are enlisted to evaluate and approve the document layout, often in situations where they are pressed for time. In the case of discrepancies with technical drawings (e.g. special characters), design experts must examine every single layout in the new Office version for correctness. Incompatible files are frequently the cause of print output errors, where the real reason is difficult or impossible for the system management to trace.

Whether MS Office Suite’s compatibility mode is the solution, and how you can set up the ideal process for your data migration, you’ll discover in the next part.

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