Why Windows Phone Mango Can’t Edit Older Office Documents

If you remember reading our Ultimate Windows Phone 7 Mango Preview back in June, we discovered that the new version of Office 2010 included with Mango was no longer able to edit Office documents from versions older than Office 2007. This was surprising and odd since the current Windows Phone 7 NoDo devices are certainly capable of editing Office 97-2003 files both recieved in email and stored on SharePoint. I decided to ask Office Mobile Product Manager Guy Gilbert what was the reasoning behind removing the feature and the public-relations-firm-approved response was as follows:

Office Mobile on the next release of Windows Phone, codenamed Mango, will be available later this year and will deliver many improvements for customers. With Office Mobile on the Mango release, people will be able to open and view most Office files with the rich formatting they expect. In addition, newer Office files created with Office 2007 SP2, Office 2010 or the Office Web Apps (e.g., files with extensions .docx, .xlsx, .pptx) can be edited with Office Mobile on Mango. When it comes to older Office files (e.g. files with extensions .doc, .xls, .ppt), our testing revealed an unacceptable risk of data and formatting loss during editing, and therefore, these files can only be opened and viewed. Some newer Office files will also open as “read-only” if they contain certain elements, for example: documents that are marked final, digitally signed or have tracked changes; or Excel workbooks with macros, data tables or external references. We will provide documentation of these cases in a Microsoft support article before Mango becomes available to customers.

So there you have it! Editing older files could cause data loss. You can still view the older files though so at least there’s that.

One work-around that’s pretty annoying is if you have an Office 97-2000 file on SkyDrive, you can use Windows Phone 7 Mango’s IE9 browser to access the desktop version of SkyDrive, and open the file in the Office Web App which will require that you convert the file to the newer Office 2010 format. That will save a new version of your document to SkyDrive at which point you can go back to the Office 2010 hub in Windows Phone Mango, refresh your SkyDrive view and open/edit the new file that was up-converted. Unfortunately if you recieve an Office 97-2003 file in email on Windows Phone Mango, there will be no way for you to edit it at all. You aren’t even allowed to save an Office 97-2003 file to SkyDrive in case you were thinking you might use the Office web app to up-convert it.

Do any of you still use Office 97-2003 document formats these days or is it a non-issue that Windows Phone 7.5 Mango won’t be able to edit them?

You can see our Office 2010 Mango Preview video below:

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!