Office 2010 App Compatibility Program To Launch

Microsoft is developing application compatibility tools for Office 2010 to help IT organizations migrate to the new productivity suite when it becomes available.

The tools are part of a Microsoft "application compatibility program," announced last week in a blog by Michael Kiselman, technical product manager for Office 2010. The program essentially is an effort to roll out software utilities and guidance documents for IT pros, including betas that could appear in early December.

Two new upcoming tools that will aid in Office 2010 migrations will be the Office Environment Assessment Tool (OEAT) and the Code Compatibility Inspector, according Kiselman. In addition, Microsoft plans to update its Office Migration Planner Manager, a set of planning and testing tools for IT pros.

Microsoft also plans to release a draft of an "Assessment and Remediation Guide" for Office 2010, which will be available in early December at the Microsoft Download Center.

IT pros typically face a number of considerations when migrating from Office 2007 or Office 2003. Those considerations include licensing and security support issues, as well as new features, such as Office Web Apps. Office 2010, currently undergoing tech preview testing, is expected to be released as a final product sometime in the first half of next year.

On the technical side, add-ins, macros and third-party applications may be part of the expected functionality after migrating to Office 2010. In addition, Office 2010 uses Microsoft's Open XML document formats for Excel, PowerPoint and Word, unlike Office 2003, which uses the older .XLS, .PPT and .DOC binary document formats.

Kiselman suggested that document fidelity would be somewhat maintained between the two document formats after a migration.

"We expect that converting binary documents to the Open XML formats should not result in fidelity changes," he explained in an e-mail. "That being said, it is difficult to speculate across the infinite permutations of content in the billions of existing binary documents."

Another migration concern is the functionality of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) projects. End users may have devised their own VBA code to automate certain tasks in Office, and there are a number of reasons "why VBA still makes sense." Kiselman said that "VBA projects created in previous versions of Windows Office should be preserved upon upgrade."

The new Code Compatibility Inspector tool will indicate if VBA code needs to be updated to work properly in Office 2010. In addition, Microsoft's OEAT can identify "add-ins created by third parties, add-ins created by Microsoft and VBA projects," Kiselman explained.

Office 2010 will be offered for both 32-bit and 64-bit hardware, and migrating from one such version to the other might lead to incompatibilities. The Code Compatibility Inspector will scan the declare statements in applications and can optionally update them for 64-bit compatibility, according to Microsoft's blog.

Despite all of these caveats, upgrading to Office 2010 doesn't appear too difficult. The installer removes the previous version beforehand, but it doesn't delete the data.

"User-created data is preserved when upgrading, including documents, PSTs, templates, macros and other user-created content," Kiselman stated.

Microsoft plans to launch a partner program around Office 2010, as well as an Application Compatibility Center on TechNet. A public beta of Office 2010 is "on schedule for delivery in November of 2009," according to Kiselman.

Program updates will be posted on Gray Knowlton's blog or IT pros can get on the application compatibility e-mail list by sending an e-mail here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.