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. Sue Homsher

    May 10, 2012 at 9:29 am

    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

    May 11, 2012 at 3:55 am

    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

    September 7, 2012 at 4:28 am

    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.

    • Steve Krause

      September 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

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

      Perhaps we can write about some of them.

  4. Kevin

    May 23, 2017 at 5:51 am

    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?



  5. Jesse Ritz

    January 17, 2018 at 5:02 am

    Bogdan Bele,

    First, let me tell you that in this Word 2010 – 97 compatibility tip you have helped a handicapped person. For seven years I have enjoined every associate who sends me .DOCX files to always send them as .DOC files. Since then media outlets may have finally upgraded, but it is no longer my problem to fix every mistake others make; I had a stroke. (I save every Word document in .DOC form for a different reason; we have a dozen computers on our home network, all with licenses for every bit of software they use. I won’t elaborate.)

    The massive cerebellar infarction I suffered ten months ago left me unable to walk and it later became apparent that I could no longer complete complex tasks. I now can walk well enough to get the cardio/strength exercise necessary for me to heal completely. Sitting at a computer for days at a time doing the hundreds of hours non-profit work a month that I am committed to doing prevents me from exercising. Wrestling with Windows 10 to make it work like Windows 98 is even harder… but I did it! I’ll add a link to your site to the computers we use every day; my wife is also heavily involved in non-profit work (haven’t looked for it yet).
    Best regards & Thanks again. – jesseritz

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