Assess Office 2013 compatibility


Applies to: Office 2013, Office 365 ProPlus

Topic Last Modified: 2017-09-29

Summary: Explains how to assess Office compatibility in your organization by using Telemetry Dashboard and the modern Office compatibility process.

Audience: IT Professionals

Keeping an Office deployment project on track requires two key aspects: using the right process to assess Office compatibility, and using tools that help you understand the potential risks of an Office upgrade. Office 2013 helps you do both. We are introducing a new process to help you assess Office compatibility, a process that we call the modern Office compatibility process. When used with the new telemetry features and tools that are in Office 2013, this process helps you speed up your Office deployments and get users up and running on the new version of Office with minimal disruptions. In this article, you'll learn more about the modern Office compatibility process and how Office telemetry fits into this process.

This article is part of the Content roadmap for Office 2013 compatibility. Use the roadmap as a starting point for articles, downloads, scripts, and videos that help you assess Office 2013 compatibility.
Are you looking for compatibility information about individual Office 2013 applications? You can find this information by searching for "2013 compatibility" on

In this article:

Since the release of Office 2010, we have talked with many IT Pros and consultants about their Office 2010 deployments. They usually tell us that they use tools such as Office Migration Planning Manager (OMPM) and Office Environment Assessment Tool (OEAT) to identify and assess Office documents and Office solutions, such as add-ins and macros, that are located on every client computer, file server, and document repository in their organizations. And why wouldn't they use these tools? They are very good at finding Office documents and solutions. So good, in fact, that the resulting assessment data—often representing hundreds of solutions and millions of documents—can take 12 to 18 months to review before an Office deployment is even started.

Although it would seem that a year spent preparing to deploy Office would reduce risks, we have not found this to be the case. In fact, the delay in deployment is likely to be costlier than the risk of disrupting the business. For one thing, if users don't have the new version of Office, they can't take advantage of the new Office features that provide the business value that prompted the upgrade. All the time that is spent assessing compatibility means that the organization won't begin seeing a return on their Office investment for at least a year. And during that year, IT Pros often spend time testing documents and solutions that are not critical to the business. This prolonged and often repetitive testing can hinder the agility of an organization and make users and IT Pros less receptive to change.

When we began to plan the compatibility story for Office 2013, we started our work with two simple goals: Minimize the time that IT Pros have to spend assessing Office compatibility and reduce the risks of an Office upgrade. This is, of course, not easy. Compatibility challenges always exist in the complex and powerful environment that is Office. Business risks are real, and IT Pros are held accountable every day to make the best decisions for their organizations. Although we knew that Office 2013 would be compatible with existing Office documents and solutions, we also knew that IT Pros will still need tools to help them verify that the new Office will work with their users’ documents and solutions. The challenge was to create tools that support, instead of drive, the compatibility assessment process.

As we defined the requirements for new compatibility tools, we studied the common issues that can make Office deployments difficult. We wanted to ease the fear of the unknown, speed up deployments, lay a foundation for future Office upgrades, and help put the IT pro back in control. The results of this work are a new telemetry-based compatibility infrastructure that's built into Office 2013 and a new approach to assessing Office compatibility. We call this approach the modern Office compatibility process, and it works as the following table describes:

Phases of the modern Office compatibility process

Discover what is being used, by whom, and how often. Documents and solutions that are used frequently and by multiple users are likely candidates for compatibility testing.

Partner with business groups to identify what's critical to the business. The data that you find during the discovery phase can help jumpstart this discussion. The goal is to identify the business-critical documents and solutions that have to be ready on the first day of your Office deployment.

Start a pilot deployment where users test the documents and solutions that are required to run the business by using Office 2013. We call this user acceptance testing. Proactively troubleshoot any issues that occur for "Day 1" documents and solutions.

Deploy Office and continue to monitor your documents and solutions. Watch for trends in Office 2013 performance and behavior as updated Office solutions are deployed. Use your Help Desk resources to troubleshoot issues as they occur for non-business-critical documents and solutions.

In this article, we'll discuss some changes in Office that are related to compatibility. Next, we'll discuss each phase of the modern Office compatibility process and describe how Office telemetry features can be used to support the process.

Office Telemetry is one of many new features and changes that are related to compatibility in Office 2013. Other new features that were introduced in Office 2010 include Click-to-Run support and improved add-in management.

If your organization currently runs Office 2003 or Office 2007, you might also want to learn about new features that were introduced in Office 2007 and in Office 2010. You can learn more in these articles:

These sections describe the new compatibility features and changes in more detail.

Office Telemetry is a new compatibility monitoring framework that works with Office 2013, Office 2010, Office 2007, and Office 2003. Office Telemetry in Office 2013 works as follows: When an Office document or solution is loaded, used, closed, or raises an error in certain Office 2013 applications, the application adds a record about the event to a local data store. Each record includes a description of the problem and a link to more information. Inventory and usage data is also tracked.

Because Office Telemetry is new in Office 2013, it’s not built into Office 2003, Office 2007, and Office 2010. For those clients, you deploy an agent that collects information about installed add-ins and the most recently used documents. You won’t get application event data for these clients, but you'll get inventory and usage data that helps you discover what’s being used and is likely important to your business.

You use Telemetry Dashboard, which is an Excel 2013 workbook, to review the Office Telemetry data that is collected throughout your organization. Procedures to deploy the dashboard components are described in Deploy Telemetry Dashboard. For a visual representation of the Telemetry Dashboard components and how they work, download the Telemetry in Office 2013 poster. This poster includes a description of all components, a list of what Office files are monitored, how data collection works, and more.

Thumbnail image of the Office Telemetry poster

Click-to-Run is a Microsoft installation and virtualization technology that reduces the time that is required to install Office. It also provides an isolated environment that allows users to run the latest version of Office side-by-side with an earlier version of Office on the same computer. When installed by using Click-to-Run, Office products can still run macros and interact with the other Office solutions that are installed on the computer. The Office Telemetry features also work with Office products that are installed by using Click-to-Run.

Click-to-Run plays an important role in the modern Office compatibility process by allowing users to pilot Office products without giving up their current environment. This safety net helps keep users productive while reducing their fear of change. Any time that a document or solution doesn't work correctly in an Office product, the user can open that file in the earlier version of Office and continue to work.

As a best practice, you should only have one version of Office installed on a computer. For migration scenarios, we realize there might be a need to have multiple versions of Office on the same computer for a short period of time. We recommend that you uninstall the earlier version of Office as soon as possible after you’ve migrated to the latest version of Office.

You can learn more about how to install Office products by using Click-to-Run in Overview of Click-to-Run. See Phase 3: Validate to learn more about how Click-to-Run is used during the Validate phase in the modern Office compatibility process.

New Group Policy settings for Office 2013 allow you to create a list of managed add-ins for each Office 2013 application. From this list, you can specify which add-ins are always enabled, always disabled (blocked), or configurable by the user. You can also block all add-ins that are not on the managed list of add-ins.

These Group Policy settings give you more control of how add-ins are used with Office in your organization. For example, if telemetry data shows that certain add-ins are causing frequent crashes, you can disable them. You can also disable add-ins that are revealed by telemetry data but that are not supported in your organization. Conversely, you can enforce the use of certain add-ins by configuring them as always enabled. When you enable or block an add-in, users cannot change the status of that add-in.

You can also manage these new Group Policy settings within Telemetry Dashboard. The Add-in management worksheet shows the success rate of Office 2013 add-ins, that is, the percentage of sessions that don't have critical errors. It also shows their load times, and the percentage of users who use add-ins that are either blocked or always enabled. You can use also Telemetry Dashboard to generate a GPO script that applies the new Group Policy settings.

You can learn more about these Group Policy settings in Phase 4: Manage. To see an overview of the add-in management process, see Let's manage add-ins using Telemetry Dashboard.

Office 2013 has many product improvements and other changes that might affect compatibility with existing Office documents and solutions. Certain Office 2013 applications can log telemetry events when an Office document or solution encounters an error that is related to features that are changed, removed, or deprecated. These applications are Word 2013, Excel 2013, and Outlook 2013. You can monitor these events and see their frequency and affected users by using Telemetry Dashboard.

You can learn more about feature changes and removals in the following resources.

Changes in Office 2013

Compatibility issues in Office 2013

Visio 2013 introduces an XML-based file format to provide new capabilities in Visio. These new capabilities include co-authoring and improved interoperability with other applications. New file formats and file name extensions are used for drawings (.vsdx, .vsdm), templates (.vstx, .vstm), and stencils (.vssx, .vssm). To help users transition from the old format to the new, Visio 2013 provides several compatibility features, such as Compatibility mode, a conversion option, and Compatibility Checker. You can use Group Policy Administrative Templates to control which Visio file formats are used by default.

You can learn more about the new VSDX file format in What IT Pros need to know about the new VSDX file format in Visio 2013.

The Microsoft Visio 2013 Viewer is now available so that users can open .vsdx, .vsdm, .vsd, .vdx, .vdw, .vstx, .vstm, .vst, or .vtx files by using Internet Explorer. You can download the viewer from the Microsoft Download Center.

The Microsoft Visio Compatibility Pack lets Visio 2010 users open files that are created in the newer Visio 2013 drawing file format (files that have a .vsdx and .vsdm extension). You can download it from the Microsoft Download Center.

Let's get started with the modern Office compatibility process. Your goal for the Discover phase is to know what's being used the most and by whom. There are two approaches that you can take to start the discovery process.

  • The preferred approach is to start to deploy Telemetry Agent to help you discover usage within monitored groups, and then use those results to begin discussions with business groups.

  • Another option is to partner with your business groups and ask them for a list of their business-critical documents and solutions. If they have a disaster recovery plan, you can likely find this list in their plan. The downside to this approach is that their lists might not be up-to-date. You should plan to use telemetry data to help refine these lists if you choose this approach.

Whether or not you start with a blank list, there is no avoiding working with your business groups. The telemetry tools can't tell you what's important to the business. The tools can give you some leads on what's important based on usage, but only the business groups can tell you how dependent their business is on those documents and solutions. If you work only based on telemetry data, you might miss seasonally used solutions, such as year-end sales reports or annual performance review templates, or other documents that aren't being used at the time that you collect data.

Now it's time to start to make plans to deploy Telemetry Agent to the existing Office clients. Here are some considerations to think about before you deploy the agent. You can also find requirements to deploy the agent in Office Telemetry Agent. If you haven't yet deployed Telemetry Dashboard, see Deploy Telemetry Dashboard.

We recommend that you monitor about 20% of the client computers across your organization. This sample should include representative users from every business group so that you can identify line-of-business solutions that are used within pockets of the organization. Make sure to include expert users in that sample and users who express interest in piloting Office 2013. There might be cases in which monitoring a complete group or organizational unit (OU) is less restrictive or easier than selecting separate client computers to participate. Small organizations might also choose to monitor all client computers.

Some business groups, such as human resources, legal, and finance, might have concerns about exposing personal or sensitive files in the telemetry data. Telemetry Dashboard offers several ways to prevent exposing this data. For example, you can configure the Telemetry Agent to obfuscate file names and titles. You can also prevent data from certain applications from being reported. You can learn more about the privacy settings in Manage privacy settings in Telemetry Dashboard. Review the privacy options with the business groups and decide which kinds of Office data that you want to exclude from reporting in Telemetry Dashboard.

When you deploy Telemetry Agent to clients, you can specify up to four labels that describe the clients. These labels help you filter data in the dashboard so that you can focus on individual business groups, specific kinds of users, users in certain geographical locations, and so on. Develop this list as you work with business groups. You can learn more about how to configure labels in Enabling and configuring Office Telemetry Agent.

The goal of the Rationalize phase is to identify business-critical Office documents and solutions. We recommend that you collect data in Telemetry Dashboard for at least one day before you start to look for trends.

The sections that follow will help you interpret the data, work with business groups, and decide what to test.

As data starts to populate in Telemetry Dashboard, you can start to look for usage trends. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Look to see whether any departments or groups are not represented but should be. For example, if there are no finance solutions being used, you might have forgotten to enable monitoring for the finance group.

  • Look for documents and solutions that are used by more than 10% of users. These are candidates for additional evaluation.

  • Look for documents that are used by 3 or more users. Is there a trend for co-authoring? Are these templates? You might find that fewer documents are shared than solutions.

  • Jot down solutions that you know are very important that you will want to track in the future even if the user numbers are low.

  • Look to see where documents were opened from. This can help you differentiate between an attachment in an email message and a frequently edited document.

  • Look for multiple file sizes of the same solution or document. This could indicate that multiple versions are being used. These are candidates for future consolidation.

At this point, you may have already worked with business groups to identify their critical documents and solutions. Compare the list they gave you with the usage data that's shown in Telemetry Dashboard. Does the usage data support the input from the business groups? If not, could there be a seasonal explanation? For example, are some solutions used more towards the end of the fiscal year? It's worth having another conversation with business groups about any differences you find so that you can adjust your plans for user acceptance testing.

If you haven't worked with business groups yet, this is the time to approach them. The initial usage data can help you create a list of documents and solutions that are candidates for testing and remediation. But instead of assigning priority levels, such as high, medium, or low, it's better to rank documents and solutions by the type of testing they will undergo. Ask your business groups to assign them to one of the choices in the following table:

Classifying Office documents and solutions to test

Documents and solutions that IT is accountable for and must keep functioning at all costs

Proactive testing for Day 1 readiness

These documents and solutions are tested, fixed, and ready for use on the first day of the Office deployment.

Documents and solutions that IT will fix if somebody calls about them

Reactive testing

These solutions are fixed only when a user reports an issue to your help desk.

Documents and solutions that nobody cares about

Don't test

When you approach business groups to classify their documents and solutions, you might meet some resistance from business groups that want everything tested for Day 1 readiness. One of our Office compatibility experts, Chris Jackson, wrote an article for TechNet Magazine that describes some costs behind Office compatibility testing. You can use this information to help justify reactive testing and ease the emotional fears that often affect Office migrations. Read more at Microsoft Office: The Mathematics of Office Compatibility.

After the Discover and Rationalize phases, it's time to start to test Day 1 documents and solutions for compatibility with Office 2013. The goal of the Validate phase is to verify that the solutions and documents work in the environment that users need them to work in. This doesn't mean that the solution or document doesn't have bugs. It just means that the bugs don't prevent users from doing their work.

Unfortunately, there is no tool that will do this work for you. You have to ask users to test the documents and solutions by doing their work in Office 2013. We call this user acceptance testing, and it's unavoidable. The good news is that user acceptance testing is much easier now with Click-to-Run, which helps transform user acceptance testing into piloting. Encourage users to use their documents and solutions in the new version of Office, and advise them to use their earlier version of Office if they encounter issues.

Telemetry data is also a big help in this phase because it can tell you what is broken and how. Telemetry Dashboard shows positive and negative trends that can help you quickly see the stability of documents or solutions as they are updated.

Here are some guidelines to help you plan and monitor user acceptance testing.

Owners of the business-critical documents and solutions are strong candidates for taking part in user acceptance testing. By looking at the list that you generated during discovery, each department can identify the owners. If not, telemetry data can help by showing you most active users.

You should also recruit technical users within each department, because they are likely to know the details of how the solution or document works. Also look for a diverse base of testers across job levels, roles, and locations.

One important rule of user acceptance testing is that the test environment must be as similar to the production environment as possible. There are several ways to set up a test environment. We hear from some customers who set up a separate organizational unit (OU) within the production domain, and others who set up a completely separate test environment that is identical to the production environment. You want the test environment to be easy to set up and easy for users to access. The goal is to remove barriers to testing and to minimize complaints from users who say that there is no time to test. Your organization might already have a testing environment provisioned and centrally managed. If so, use it. If you don't have a test environment already, don't set one up. Use Click-to-Run instead.

Click-to-Run provides all the benefits of testing in production without all the risk. Installing Office 2013 by using Click-to-Run allows users to run their earlier versions of Office alongside Office 2013. If a problem or incompatibility arises, users can still do their work by using the earlier version of Office.

It is much easier to transform user acceptance testing into piloting when you use Click-to-Run. You deploy the new environment while keeping the previous one, and you can monitor the status of the Click-to-Run deployments of Office 2013 by using Telemetry Dashboard. You can see which builds are being used and the compatibility issues that are being reported. Monitoring user acceptance testing and piloting by using Telemetry Dashboard helps ease the fear of not knowing the impact of the new version. You can offer more information to business groups and Office solution owners beyond just status of the deployment.

We recommend that you use side-by-side installations of Office as a temporary solution for user acceptance testing and piloting, not as a long-term solution for production environments. As a best practice, you should only have one version of Office installed on a computer. For migration scenarios, we realize there might be a need to have multiple versions of Office on the same computer for a short period of time. We recommend that you uninstall the earlier version of Office as soon as possible after you’ve migrated to the latest version of Office

You can learn more about Click-to-Run in Overview of Click-to-Run.

By now you have identified the Day 1 solutions and users have tested them by using Office 2013. In addition to bug reports from users, data in Telemetry Dashboard will indicate how Word 2013, Excel 2013, and Outlook 2013 are performing when they are used with your existing Office documents and solutions. As you collect information about bugs and other issues that have to be fixed or mitigated, work with in-house developers and business group managers to create remediation plans. You'll have to decide whether to retire solutions or fix them (if they were developed in-house) and work with vendors to obtain updated versions (for third-party products).

Both Telemetry Dashboard and Telemetry Log can help you during this process. You can monitor the health of Word 2013, Excel 2013, and Outlook 2013 as you deploy incremental fixes or new versions of Office solutions. Developers can use the Office Telemetry Log to observe the compatibility events that occur on the local computer when Word 2013, Excel 2013, and Outlook 2013 are used with existing documents and solutions.

Your development teams might have automated testing tools that can help with the testing process. It is important that those tools are tuned in such a way that only deployment blockers are flagged and fixed for Day 1 readiness. It's probably not worth fixing bugs that don't affect the user's day-to-day work, at least not for Day 1. Those solutions can be fixed over time if it is necessary.

You may wonder whether it's a good idea to substitute vendor support statements with compatibility testing. Chris Jackson covers the cost pros and cons of researching vendor support in his article Microsoft Office: The Mathematics of Office Compatibility.

Your goals for the Manage phase are to use Telemetry Dashboard to monitor Office usage and add-ins and prepare users for the transition to Office 2013.

As you deploy Office 2013, you'll start to see Office health and usage trends that help you unlock the value of your Office investments and give you insight for future deployments. For example, knowing what ActiveX controls are being used can help with future Windows updates. Is Excel being used not just as a spreadsheet tool, but as a front-end application that uses a data connection? How do new Office solutions affect the environment? When the time comes to do another Office deployment, you might find that you can skip the discovery process completely because you'll know exactly what's being used and what's important.

These sections provide more guidance about the Manage phase.

As you monitor solutions that are used by Office 2013, you are likely to find add-ins that are slow to load or that crash frequently. You might also find add-ins that should not be used in your organization. As described earlier in Improved add-in management, there are new Group Policy settings that allow you to manage these add-ins when they are used with Office 2013.

The new add-in management policy settings can be used with the following Office 2013 applications:

  • Access 2013

  • Excel 2013

  • InfoPath 2013

  • Word 2013

  • Outlook 2013

  • OneNote 2013

  • PowerPoint 2013

  • Project 2013

  • Publisher 2013

  • Visio 2013

Telemetry Dashboard provides an interface for configuring these settings. On the Solutions worksheet, select the Add-in management link at the top of the page, which brings you to the Add-in management worksheet. On that worksheet, you can see telemetry data about each add-in and select a Group Policy setting to control each add-in. Use the instructions on the worksheet to generate a script that you can run to apply the GPO to an Active Directory organizational unit.

We're planning future content to help you use the add-in management settings. In the meantime, you can configure these settings in Telemetry Dashboard or download the Office 2013 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool.

There are individual add-in management settings for each supported Office 2013 application. They are located in the following paths:

  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Office 2013 application name\Miscellaneous\List of managed add-ins

  • User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Office 2013 application name\Miscellaneous\Block all unmanaged add-ins

You can read an overview of add-in management process in our blog post Let's manage add-ins using Telemetry Dashboard

In Office 2013, compatibility mode is used automatically to open Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents that were created in earlier versions of these applications. Compatibility mode makes sure that no new or improved features in Office 2013 are available while users work with a document so that people who use earlier versions of Office will have full editing capabilities. Compatibility mode also preserves the layout of the document.

Word 2013, Excel 2013, and PowerPoint 2013 use compatibility mode to open binary Office documents that were created in Office 2003 or earlier versions of Office. Word 2013 also uses compatibility mode to open OpenXML documents that were created in Word 2007 and Word 2010.

As part of your overall Office 2013 training plan, you should provide guidance to users about how compatibility mode works. You can find end-user topics about compatibility mode by searching for "2013 compatibility" on

You can use the Set default compatibility mode on file creation policy setting to manage the default compatibility mode that Word 2013 uses to create new Word documents. This might be necessary if you have add-ins or macros that use the layout functions that are used in Word 2007 or Word 2010. When you enable this policy setting, you can specify which versions of Word (2003, 2007, 2010, or 2013) that new Word documents are compatible with. Four configurations options are available for this setting:

  • Word 2003   This mode disables features in Word that are incompatible with Word 2003.

  • Word 2007   This mode disables features in Word that are incompatible with Word 2007.

  • Word 2010   This mode disables features in Word that are incompatible with Word 2010.

  • Full functionality mode   This mode makes sure that all new features remain enabled. This is the default setting for Word 2013.

When you choose the Word 2003 option, Word is configured to create new Open XML files that have Word 2007, Word 2010, and Word 2013 features disabled. Doing so makes sure that the Open XML files do not contain content that Word 2003 users can't edit. However, users of Office 2003 must still have the Compatibility Pack installed before they can edit Word Open XML files that are compatible with Word 2003.

If you select Full functionality mode, there is no effect on the Word 2007 and Word 2010 users. They can open and edit Word 2013 documents. The only difference is that new features in Word 2013 are not available in Word 2007 or Word 2010.

You can download the Office 2013 Administrative Templates from the Microsoft Download Center. The Set default compatibility mode on file creation policy setting is located in the path Microsoft Word 2013\Word Options\Save.

We recommend that you run Office 2013 with an older version of Office side-by-side only as a short-term compatibility solution. As a best practice, you should only have one version of Office 2013 installed on a computer. For migration scenarios, we realize there might be a need to have multiple versions of Office 2013 on the same computer for a short period of time. We recommend that you uninstall the earlier version of Office 2013 as soon as possible after you’ve migrated to the latest version of Office 2013. This avoids any widespread issues that can be caused by file type associations that might break after updates or repair operations.

Your Help Desk should be ramped up on Office 2013 and ready to support users. Here are some resources to help them get up to speed: