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Google’s plan to give old Microsoft Office file formats a quiet bullet behind the woodpile seems to have fallen by the wayside, with Mountain View quietly revising its feature announcement.

Google's original announcement stated:

The following features are intended for release to these domains on October 1st: Docs: Users no longer have the ability to download Google Docs in Office 2003-07 format (.doc, .xls, .ppt).

It was an announcement that had brought a loud and unwelcome reaction from users – and the Google announcement has been quietly laundered. It now reads:

Docs: The built-in exporting feature from Google Docs to Microsoft Office will now allow users to download Google documents as modern Office formats (.docx, .xlsx, .pptx), as opposed to the older formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt) that were standard in Office 97-2003. For users who still use Office 97-2003, we recommend installing the free compatibility plugin from Microsoft, which will allow them to open modern Office file types.

Note: The ability to import Office files of any format to Google Docs is still supported and will remain unchanged.

[Emphasis added]

The Reg's antipodean labs tested the new regime today and found it is possible to upload a .doc file to Google Drive. Doing so produces three options:

  • Convert documents, presentations, spreadsheets and drawings to the corresponding Google Docs format
  • Convert text from PDF and image files to Google documents
  • Confirm settings before each upload

It is possible to upload a .doc to Google Drive and then download it as a .doc file. But Google Drive allows viewing of documents, not editing, so once you alter and download a file you'll be railroaded back into the modern file formats.

While users that retain the old formats are still criticized for their reluctance to upgrade, the apparent change of heart from Google will come as a relief for anybody with a large library of historical documents in the legacy formats. ®

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