Ensuring Compatibility with Older Excel Versions

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 23, 2022)


In Mary's company they often send Excel workbooks to vendors and contractors, all using differing versions of Excel. She wonders if there is a way to ensure that they don't inadvertently use a worksheet function that will not work on older versions of Excel that others may be using. Mary notes that in their office they don't have all the older versions of the program in order to test.

In the old days (not really that long ago), Microsoft would update Excel every couple of years and introduce a limited number of new features in each version. One might reasonably refer to these as the "good old days," because now it seems that Microsoft is introducing new features every couple of months. And some of those new features can be showstoppers, if used and shared with people using older versions of the software.

Fortunately, Excel includes a compatibility checker that can help you identify whether your workbook uses features that could cause heartburn for users of older versions. To use the checker, follow these steps:

  1. Save your workbook as you normally would.
  2. Display the File tab of the ribbon.
  3. At the left side of the screen, click Info. Excel displays information about the workbook and some tools.
  4. Click the Check for Issues button. Excel displays a drop-down list of things you can check.
  5. Click the Check Compatibility option. Excel displays the Compatibility Checker dialog box. (See Figure 1.)
  6. Figure 1. The Compatibility Checker dialog box.

At this point you can see what issues are flagged by Excel. You can filter which issues are displayed by using the Select Versions to Show drop-down list. You can also tell Excel to run the Compatibility Checker each time the workbook is saved by clicking the appropriate checkbox near the bottom of the dialog box. Also, if you click the Copy to New Sheet button, then Excel allows you to copy the compatibility information to a new worksheet so you can use it as a checklist to track down the compatibility issues.

If you have people who are using even older versions (pre-2007), the best approach is to simply do a Save As (press F12) and save in the .XLS format. During the process of saving, Excel will let you know what features will not be saved into the older file format.

You can find additional information by accessing either of these pages on Microsoft's support site:


Of course, you may want to consider if the vendors and contractors really need access to the workbook in Excel format. If all they need to do is to see, for example, is an inventory level, a project status, or a price list, then consider generating a PDF file from your workbook. That PDF can be viewed by just about anyone without the need for you to be concerned about Excel version compatibility.

Finally, if you simply need to share raw data (values) with your contractors or vendors, then you might consider saving your worksheet in CSV format. Then the data can be loaded into whatever spreadsheet program they are using. It won't have any formatting, but it will allow you to share data rather easily.

ExcelTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Excel training. This tip (9974) applies to Microsoft Excel 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Excel in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Printing Graphic Thumbnails

If you are doing work with a lot of graphics, it may be helpful to create a summary page that contains thumbnail ...

Discover More

Converting Text to Values

When you import information originating in a different program, Excel may not do the best job at figuring out what ...

Discover More

Summing Only Visible Values

When you use SUM to determine the total of a range of values, Excel doesn't really pay attention to whether the values ...

Discover More

Excel Smarts for Beginners! Featuring the friendly and trusted For Dummies style, this popular guide shows beginners how to get up and running with Excel while also helping more experienced users get comfortable with the newest features. Check out Excel 2013 For Dummies today!

More ExcelTips (ribbon)

Slowing Down Mouse Selection

Ever tried to select a range of cells using the mouse, only to have the cells scroll by so quickly you can't make the ...

Discover More

Inserting the User's Name in a Cell

Need to understand who is using a particular workbook? There are a number of ways you can find out, as discussed in this tip.

Discover More

Message about a Problem with the Clipboard

Imagine this: You are working along just fine in Excel, then you try to make an edit to your workbook that causes a ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is nine minus 5?

2022-04-25 01:36:13


Any information on how to find this compatibility checker on a Mac ? The instructions above are Windows specific (there is now "backstage" on Mac versions), and I've been looking without success on the Mac version to find out how to do this ...

Thanks for any useful feedback ...

This Site

Got a version of Excel that uses the ribbon interface (Excel 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Excel, visit our ExcelTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in ExcelTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.