How-To

How to Get Out of Compatibility Mode in Word

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Compatibility mode allows you to edit documents from older versions of Word. If you need to get out of compatibility mode in Word, follow this guide.

It’s hard to believe, but Microsoft Word has been an office staple since 1983, predating the Windows operating system itself.

It’s come a long way since then. New features are added to each release, making it hard for documents to remain compatible with older versions. Thankfully, Microsoft has a workaround—compatibility mode.

Unfortunately, compatibility mode can cause problems, especially if you’re trying to edit older documents in a newer version of Word. If you’re unsure how, here’s how to get out of compatibility mode in Word.

What is Compatibility Mode in Microsoft Word?

You might open a Microsoft Word document and see compatibility mode appear in Word’s title bar. If you see this, it means your document was likely created in an older version of Word (or using an older Word format). As a failsafe, Word is opening your file in compatibility mode to protect the document.

Compatibility mode in Word

Each new version of Word brings new features—features that might break the integrity or formatting of your older document. Compatibility mode switches these features off to allow you to view and edit your document as it was intended to be viewed in the version of Word it was initially created in.

For example, if you’re trying to edit a document created in Word 2010, you won’t be able to embed videos into your document, as the feature didn’t exist in 2010.

Word will also switch to compatibility mode if you open a document using the doc file format. This file format was replaced with docx in Office 2007, but older files using the .doc format continue to exist.

How to Check Your Word Document for Compatibility With Older Versions

You can easily check what versions of Word your document is compatible with by using the compatibility checker in Word. This is only available for users running a modern version of Word on Windows.

To check your file compatibility in Word:

  1. Open your Word document.
  2. On the ribbon bar, press File.
  3. In the File menu, press Info > Check for Issues > Check Compatibility.
    Check document compatibility in Word
  4. Press the Select versions to show drop-down menu.
  5. In the drop-down, the version with a blue tick is the latest version of Word that the document is fully compatible with.
    Compatibility checker in Word

How to Turn Off Compatibility Mode in Word

If you’ve opened a document in compatibility mode in Word, you can switch it off by saving the file in a newer Word format. This will disable compatibility mode and allow you to access all of the available features in your version of Word.

A word of warning, however. Updating the file format will mean that any new features you use could cause your document to appear differently in older versions. This is what compatibility mode is used for—if you switch it off, your document compatibility might be reduced as a result.

The steps below will work for both Windows and Mac users.

To turn off compatibility mode in Word:

  1. Open your Word document.
  2. On the ribbon, press File > Save As.
    Saving files in Word
  3. In the Save As window, select Word Document (.docx) from the drop-down. On older versions, select it from the Format drop-down menu.
    Change file format in Word
  4. If you want to overwrite the existing file, leave the filename intact and press Save.
  5. Otherwise, change the filename and press Save to save the new file.
    Save file in Word

How to Update and Convert Older Word Documents

If you’re running Word on Windows, you can quickly convert a document to leave compatibility mode. This will update an older file (such as a doc file) to the newer format.

To update and convert an older Word document:

  1. Open your Word document.
  2. Press File > Info > Convert. Your document will convert to a newer format and enable new features.
    Converting a file in Word
  3. Follow any additional on-screen instructions.
  4. Press File > Save or Save As to save your changes.

Using Microsoft Word

Using the steps above, you should be able to exit compatibility mode in Word. If you upgrade your document, it should become compatible with the newer version of Office you’re using.

Don’t want to keep upgrading? You can always take out a Microsoft 365 subscription, ensuring you always have the latest version of Word installed. You can also try out Word on an Android device or you can try Office on your iPhone instead.

Want to ditch Windows? Microsoft offers a version of Office for Chromebooks, allowing you to switch from Google Docs to your favorite Office suite instead.

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