Google announced Wednesday that Google Apps users will no longer be able to export word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents as files using older Microsoft Office formats, such as .doc, .xls and .ppt.
Users of the search giant's consumer productivity suite, Google Docs, will still be able to export documents in the older Microsoft formats.
The Google Apps change, which affects all versions of Microsoft's productivity suite from Office 97 to Office 2003, takes effect Oct. 1.
Once the change is implemented, Google Apps users who do not have a version of Office that supports the newer document formats for Word (.docx), Excel (.xlsx) and PowerPoint (.pptx) will need to convert documents exported from Google Apps into older formats. Such conversions can be performed with a free utility program distributed by Microsoft.
For organizations with a diverse user base, Google's action makes using its commercial productivity suite a potentially annoying exercise.
Document collaborators using the older formats never needed to worry about whether their fellow collaborators had a newer version of Office because the suite is backward compatible. Even the latest versions of the suite can read the older formats. However, older versions of the suite can't read the newer formats.
The lack of support for older formats could create friction among the collaborators of a document as they struggle to figure out why they can't view a file or why a document doesn't look the same to one user as it does to another.
Google's ditching of support for older Microsoft Office formats is just the latest in a series of purges of its productivity suite in recent weeks. Last month, Google shut down Google Apps for Teams, which let groups use Docs, Talk and Calendar without switching their email system to Gmail. Google also moved the Google Video for Business component in its Apps for Business and Apps for Education offerings to Google Drive.
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