Determining Word Versions of Documents

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated February 21, 2008)

In many office environments, different people probably use many different versions of Word to create their documents. At some time you may want to know which version of Word was used to create a particular document.

It is not possible to be absolutely sure which version of Word was used to create a document. It is possible, however, to identify which version of Word was last used to modify a document. This is because every time a document is saved, Word (whichever version you are using) rewrites the format and some of the identifying information saved within a file.

Each time a document is modified and saved, a host of data is written into the actual document file. The data mostly consists of internal information Word needs when working with the file--stuff like style definitions, macros, and the whole gambit of document properties. This data also includes the name of the last version of Word to save the file and the file version or 'class.'

Most of this information is not visible when the file is open in Word because Word reads what it needs to know and just displays the document content in the editing window. You can, however, use a plain text editor to look at the document file and examine the version information stored within it.

The default text editor that ships with Windows is Notepad. Depending on your version of Windows, Notepad isn't the tool of choice to view a large document file, however. Why? Because in some versions of Windows there is a size limit on the documents you can open in Notepad. If you try to open a file that is too large, Notepad helpfully volunteers to open the file in WordPad. This won't do you any good, since you want to view the plain ASCII characters in the file, not the document itself (which is how WordPad would display it).

This means that if you are using a version of Windows that has a limited version of Notepad, you need some other text editor without a size limit. You can find a variety on the Internet, including TextPad, TextEdit, UltraEdit, or NotepadPlus. You can install and use one of these programs, and then use it to open the document in question. Be careful, however, that you don't actually change anything within the file. You are just looking around, and changing anything (and resaving the file within the text editor) is a sure recipe to make the file unusable within Word.

Having opened the file, look towards the end for some short sections of text that are actually readable. If the text editor has a search feature, then search for "Microsoft Word." The area you are looking for is in a section that is obviously the common document properties (template name, author, document title, etc) and the version information will be displayed nearby. This information will consist of one of the following:

  • Microsoft Word 6.0
  • Microsoft Word 95
  • Microsoft Word 8.0
  • Microsoft Word 9.0
  • Microsoft Word 10.0

This covers versions of Word up through Word 2002. If the document was saved in Word 2003, then the version number is not saved in the document. Instead, you'll find the text "Microsoft Office Word" and "Microsoft Office Word Document."

Later readable sections of the file also reveal the file version--which is not necessarily the same thing as the Word version since some Word versions can write binary files of earlier versions and the same file version is used for both Word 97 and Word 2000. The file versions are:

  • Word.Document.6 (Word 6 format)
  • Word.Document.7 (Word 95 format)
  • Word.Document.8 (Word 97 or later format)

Now, having said all this (which is a great way to understand a little more about the inside workings of Word), there is something you can try within Word itself. If you are using Word 2000 or a later version, follow these steps:

  1. Start Word.
  2. Click on the Open tool, or choose Open from the File menu. Word displays the Open dialog box.
  3. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the file in question. (Don't open it; just select it.)
  4. Click on the down arrow next to the Views tool on the toolbar in the Open dialog box. This displays a small drop-down menu.
  5. Choose Properties from the drop-down menu.

If you are using Word 97, the steps are only slightly different.

  1. Start Word.
  2. Click on the Open tool, or choose Open from the File menu. Word displays the Open dialog box.
  3. Use the controls in the dialog box to locate and select the file in question. (Don't open it; just select it.)
  4. Click on the Properties tool on the toolbar in the Open dialog box.

The information that appears at the right side of the dialog box shows a multitude of properties for the selected document file. One of the properties is called Application. This lists the version information for the document--the same information you located using the text editor earlier in this tip.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (601) applies to Microsoft Word 97 and 2000.

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. ...

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