Office compatibility with Windows 8

Microsoft changes the Office compatibility for Windows 8 but doesn’t explain why, so we do.

Microsoft has changed the Windows 8 compatibility statement for Microsoft Office versions from the promises during the Windows 8 Preview. Our new book is Windows 8 for Microsoft Office users with the stuff you need to know and none of the Microsoft hoopla.

As usual, but still disappointingly, they don’t explain why some versions of Office aren’t compatible. This applies to the ‘regular’ versions of Windows 8 (basic, Pro and Enterprise) not the tablet Windows RT release.

Office 2013, the next version of Office, is compatible naturally.

Office 2010 and Office 2007 are also fully compatible.

The change comes with Office 2003 which was marked as compatible during the Previews but is now said to be ‘not compatible’. However there’s no explanation about what the compatibility problems are.

Office XP and earlier versions of Office are also marked as ‘not compatible’ same as with the Preview versions.

Let’s face it, Microsoft’s own interests are served by saying past versions of Office are incompatible with Windows 8. So they’ll take any excuse to encourage people to buy another copy of Office. That self-interest is encouraged by the failure to explain why their own software isn’t compatible.

Office 2003 and Windows 8

When we tried Office 2003 with Windows 8 release version it wasn’t compatible during install or operation. So then why does the Microsoft Compatibility Center have 9 out of 16 people saying it is compatible?

The first error appears during installation (Complete install or Custom install with the ‘Big 4’ Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Office 2003 error in Windows 8 image from Office compatibility with Windows 8 at

Clicking Ignore will let the install continue. When starting Word 2003 we got a similar error, again ‘Ignore’ let us continue.

The error message suggests that documents / applications with links to some data sources like Visual FoxPro won’t work in Office 2003 on Windows 8.

The conclusion is that you can install and run Office 2003 by ‘ignoring’ the error messages that will appear.

What to do

You can try running Office 2003 on Windows 8 and chance your luck.

A better solution is to run Office 2003 (or any ‘extra’ version of Office) in a virtual machine (VM). This maintains compatibility (because you can run the Windows version of your choice in the virtual machine) and keeps it isolated from other Office installs (ie avoids ‘side-by-side’ Office conflicts). We’ve been suggesting VM’s for many years and Windows 8 Professional or Enterprise editions makes that option more accessible.

Windows 8 Professional and Enterprise editions include Hyper-V, the virtual machine system. Or you can use VMWare Workstation.

Get or make a virtual machine with, say Windows XP then install Office 2003. You can start and use Office 2003 (or any earlier version of Office)

We know that virtual machines seem scary and a big jump so In Windows 8 for Microsoft Office users, we have extensive ‘step-by-step’ on making a virtual machine with both Windows and Office installed. There’s also a lot of background information so you can better understand virtual machines.