Update an old Word document to the latest Word format?

To use the modern features of Word 2019 or Office 365, you must upgrade your Word documents if they are based on an older version of the Word software. Upgrading ensures that your documents are compatible with the newer versions of Word and that you can use the new formatting and other tools available in the latest versions of the software.

Converting an old Word document to a newer version only takes a few clicks, as long as the Word software is installed on your computer. When the file is converted, you will see that it has a new extension that only newer Word files use.

Upgrade Word documents using the Word software

If you have the Microsoft Office suite installed on your computer, you probably also have Word installed. You can use this software without needing any add-ons to upgrade your Word documents.

Right click on the document you want to convert and select open with followed by Word† This ensures that the file is opened in the correct software.

When the document opens, click the File tab in the top left corner. Then select the tab with the text Info in the left sidebar and click transfer in the right pane.

A dialog box will appear on your screen asking you to confirm your action. Here’s what it actually wants to tell you:

  • Your old document will be replaced by the new updated document.
  • There will be minor layout changes.
  • click on Tell me more if you want to know more about the process. If you don’t want to see this dialog for future conversions, check the box.
  • Finally hit the Okay button to start the conversion.

Another way to upgrade your document is to use Word’s save menu. With the document open, click the File tab and select Save as

Then select Word document from the format drop-down menu and press Save† Note that this does not replace the old version of the document, but creates a completely new copy of the document based on the newer Word software.

You can follow the steps above to upgrade as many of your old Word documents to newer versions as you want.

And since it’s just a matter of a few clicks and you have the option to disable the dialog, you can: easily convert some documents in a short period of time.

Upgrade Word documents to Microsoft Word Online

If you don’t have the Word software installed on your computer and you prefer to use the online Word app, you can also use it to convert your Word documents.

The online app offers almost the same features and interface as the offline app.

Open a modern web browser and go to the Office online website. Once you are there, log in to your account if you are not already.

When the main interface loads, click on the option that says: start new and select Upload and open† This will allow you to upload your old Word file from your computer.

Navigate to the folder where your document is located and select it to upload it online.

When the file is uploaded and open on your screen, click the Edit document option and then select Edit in browser

A prompt will appear saying it will convert your file first and then let you edit it. It also states that a copy of your original document will be made.

click on transfer at the prompt.

To see the layout changes, click Vision† Otherwise click edit to start editing the document.

To get a copy of the document for offline access, click the File menu and select Save as followed by Download a copy

click on To download on the next screen to download the document to your computer.

The downloaded document must be the updated version of your old Word document.

Now that your documents have been upgraded, you are free to use all the modern features of Word in them. You can use newer editing tools, use a newer file extension, and so on without worry.

Keep in mind, though, that if you have to send the file back to someone and they’re using an older version of the software, they won’t be able to see the newer changes to the document.

What is Compatibility Mode in Microsoft Word?

When you open an old version of a document in the latest Word software, you will find a text that says Compatibility Mode displayed next to the document name at the top. Ever wondered what that text meant?

Compatibility mode is actually a mode that the newer versions of Word use to ensure that when you edit your old documents, they are not changed with the latest editing tools in the software.

It’s because Word doesn’t want you to add features to your old documents that the old versions of Word don’t understand. For example, if you add a new formatting option available in Word 2016 to your Word 2004 document, the 2004 version of Word will not understand the formatting. It can then display the document with scrambled text and so on.

Compatibility mode ensures that such things don’t happen and that you can only use formatting and other tools that are fully compatible with your current Word document version.

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