How To Make Word 2010 Save in Word 97-2003 Format

I don’t know about you, but I still have friends I send documents to that still use Windows XP and Office 2003 (believe it or not). In this How To I’ll show you how to both save files in the legacy format so they can open them and make that the default.

I don’t know about you, but I still have friends I send documents to that still use Windows XP and Office 2003 (believe it or not). Although XP and Office 2003 will get the job done in most cases, every time I send them a document from Word 2010, they can’t open it because by default both Word 2010 and Word 2007 save files in docx format.

Although the new docx file format from Office 2010 is far superior to the legacy doc format, in this tip I’ll show you how to make the legacy format the default when saving documents.

word 2012 save to doc

Of course, you can always go to File in the ribbon, hit Save As, and select the Word 97-2003 format.

save as word 97-2003 document

But if, like me, you want to make the option permanent, here’s how to do it (it’s quite easy). First, go to File in the top ribbon, then select Options on the menu on the left, just like I did below.

word 2012 file options

In the window that comes up, go to Save >> Save files in this format and select Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc). Now hit ok.

select save word 97-2003

That’s it! Now Word 2010 will save in the old doc format.




  1. Your newsletter is the coolest!! I have learned a lot of things from it — thank-you for all of the information you provide!! I used your update for how to save a MS Word doc in 2003 format to determine how to save a MS Project document in 2003 document. That is going to help me tremendously!! Thanks again!!

  2. Paul Macefield  

    HI, Thanks for a very useful post.

    I was interested when you started the paragragh off with

    “don’t know about you, but I still have friends I send documents to that still use Windows XP and Office 2003 (believe it or not).”

    I suspect that there are a high percentage of people around the world who have an xp pc, plus Office 2003. It would be interesting to see the stats of systems people use.

    Lots of people I know have never encoutered Office 2007 let alone Office 2010. I think we mustn’t assume that everyone will get the latest version or the newest shiny thing.

    Could be a cost thing, although that is decreasing with Online apps via Hotmail. Could also be that “well my pc works for what I need so why do I need to change it or I’m too busy to bother etc.

  3. rothkoaintdead  

    i totally understand people’s adherence to older, simpler software that allows them to be productive. Notice that, in this microsoft context, i say ‘allows’, not ‘helps’. I use and test various software to know the better tools. I have NEVER chosen MS over the competition. One day, quantum physicists will invent a youth machine to reimburse wasted years of life. And all the victims of Microsoft will make them rich.

    PS. DOCX is a disaster. MS was like “We’ll make another exclusive MS format that pretends to be related to XML but is nothing of the sort and breaks all compatibility with everything else, including our own software.” Wait, why am I laughing? oh yeah, I’m joining MS as they laugh at you.

    • Hiya — good feedback. What are the tools you usually use instead of Microsoft ones?

      Perhaps we can write about some of them.

  4. Kevin  

    How do I regain 2010 functionality into a document created in 2010 and then saved as 2003? When I convert all the created drop downs are disabled?



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