Microsoft Word 2003 has a strong and loyal following that continues even after multiple upgrades.
Although my articles are geared toward the versions that feature the Office ribbon, I still want to acknowledge the older versions of Microsoft Word (97-2003), discuss whether you should upgrade or not, and offer ways for you to get help with your software.
Should you upgrade?
The upgrade to Microsoft Word 2003 signals the end of an era. The way users have interacted with this software for over twenty years changed dramatically with the release of Word 2007.
When a new software version is released, the obvious question is whether you should upgrade or not.
The answer is, “it depends.”
The choice to upgrade should be determined by how you use the software, financial factors, security concerns, and compatibility issues.
If the only reason you are avoiding the upgrade is because of the learning curve, consider taking a Word training course or purchasing a reference manual. (affiliate link)
How do you use your software?
Do you use Microsoft Word only at home? If so, and if you don’t share files with people who use Word 2007-2010, you probably don’t need to upgrade yet.
If you use Word 2007 or 2010 at work, but have to convert files to take home, then consider upgrading.
Can you afford to upgrade?
Upgrading from Microsoft Word 2003 to 2007 was expensive, but not as much as upgrading to 2010.
With the release of Office 2010, Microsoft eliminated upgrade pricing. This was a controversial move which has angered and alienated many loyal customers.
But don’t just look at the initial price of buying the software when calculating the cost. When considering an upgrade or an alternative to Microsoft Office, also calculate technical support costs and time (man-hours) for upgrading or not upgrading.
If you cannot afford to upgrade and you don’t need the new version, it is probably safe to continue using Microsoft Word 2003 for now. If you are using a version older than 2003, it may be a security risk. In that case, the cost of NOT upgrading may far outweigh the cost of the new software.
Security concerns of using outdated software
Once a product is no longer supported with bug fixes and security patches, it should be upgraded because it poses a security risk.
Using outdated software puts your own system at risk, and if you share files, puts your coworkers and friends at risk, too.
All Microsoft software programs have a specific life cycle, which includes how long customer technical support is offered and if service packs or security patches are released.
If you own Microsoft Word 1.0 – 2000, including Office XP Service Pack 0, your product is obsolete. No new service packs or support options are available. You should upgrade to the latest version.
Office 2002 and 2003 are not considered obsolete, but they are at the end of the support lifecycle. However, you can still get Microsoft online support for these products. Additionally, many websites and consultants still fully support these versions.
For more information about Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policies, visit the following pages:
If you do not have to share files with anyone, compatibility isn’t a factor in your decision to upgrade. But if you share files, problems may occur when using an older version of Microsoft Office, even if you work in compatibility mode.
It is time consuming to convert files from one version to the other. If you find you are doing this on a regular basis, or friends, family, and coworkers complain that they have to convert files for you, then you should consider upgrading to Microsoft Word 2010.
Get the compatibility pack
If you are not using Microsoft Word 2007 or 2010, it is very important to download and install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack.
The pack allows you to open, edit and save .docx files using an older version of Word.
Getting Microsoft Word 2003 help
Even though this site is geared toward Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010, issues that are generic to word processing are covered on this site.
There are still excellent resources online for Microsoft Word 2003. Be sure to visit the Microsoft Word MVP site. This site is slowly being updated for the newer versions, but for now, you can still get lots of help for Word 97-2003.