What is Excel Compatibility Mode?

Older versions of Microsoft Excel used to create files with a file type that ended in .xls. However, newer versions now use a file format that ends with .xlsx. Newer versions of Excel can open these older Excel file versions, but some older versions of Excel have trouble with the newer file format.

Excel is an excellent tool for managing and analyzing data. However, did you know that there’s a mode in which it can be used to open files from other versions of Excel? Excel Compatibility Mode ensures that your files can work with different versions of Excel. This mode can be toggled on and off for any file you are editing.

For example, if you have a new project and want it to open in the newest version of Excel, but need to use some old data from an older spreadsheet, then compatibility mode is what you need. Here, we explain what compatibility mode does as well as how to use it.

Microsoft Excel Compatibility Mode

There are many different versions of Microsoft Excel, and it can be difficult to tell which version of Excel you are using unless you are very familiar with all of the different releases. If you have been experiencing errors with your spreadsheet and want to fix the problems, take a moment to review the compatibility mode for your version of MS Excel.

For example, if you are using an older version of MS Office on Windows 7, your default option may not give you full compatibility with all the latest versions of Microsoft Excel.

Essentially compatibility mode in Excel is a means to check that anything you are doing in your file will work for other people that might be using older or different versions of the Microsoft Excel application.

The Compatibility Mode in an Excel file is set at the time that the new features were first introduced in the newer versions of MS Office software.

Whether or not you are using the Compatibility Mode for an Excel file can be found with the following steps.

  1. Open the file in Excel.
  2. Click the File tab.
  3. Select the Info tab at the left side of the window.
  4. Look for a Compatibility Mode label. An example is shown below.
what is Excel compatibility mode

If you do see a Compatibility Mode section, click the Convert button if you would like to enable all of the available features for your version of Excel.

How to Save a Document in Compatibility Mode in Excel

When you work with a document in Excel, it is often necessary to be able to save it in Compatibility Mode. Compatibility Mode ensures that all formulas and features will work properly in the different versions of Microsoft Excel.

The steps below will help you understand how to save your spreadsheet in Compatibility Mode.

  1. Click File at the top left corner of your screen and select Save As from the drop-down menu, or at the left side of the window.
  2. On the Save As page, choose an appropriate file name for your document. The default file type is .xlsx but you can choose to save the file in an older version (such as .xls) from the drop down menu.
how to save a document in Excel compatibility mode

Note that if you are using a newer version of Excel and you have some items in your file that aren’t compatible with that version of Excel you will see a pop-up window letting you know that.

How to Turn Off Compatibility Mode in Excel

You may find your Excel spreadsheets crashing, freezing, or maybe you can’t open a spreadsheet at all. If this is the case, then it is possible that Compatibility Mode in Excel is the culprit.

You may have enabled Compatibility Mode to work with an older version of Microsoft Office, but now you need to turn it off so that newer versions will work properly, or so that you can use a specific feature that isn’t available in older Excel file versions.

Here is how you can fix this issue.

  1. Open an existing spreadsheet or a new spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.
  2. Click File at the top of the window.
  3. From the left panel, select Options, which will open a pop-up window.
  4. Select the Save tab at the left side of the Excel Options window.
  5. Find the Save files in this format option and click the drop down menu next to it.
  6. Select .xlsx Excel workbook (or possibly just Excel Workbook, depending on your Excel version).
  7. Click OK at the bottom of the window to save future documents in the .xlsx file format by default.

Additional Reading