Compatibility Mode: How to Re-Activate Your Favorite Features

This happens frequently after a PivotTables session… An attendee excitedly returns to their computer to create a PivotTable from an existing Excel file, only to discover that the PivotTable screen looks a lot different than it did in class, and a lot of their favorite features are grayed out in the ribbon.Β  This is not just an Excel issue… sometimes this happens Word or PowerPoint: certain features are mysteriously faded in the user’s ribbon. The culprit? Compatibility Mode. Let’s talk about this setting, and how to escape from it, in your Microsoft Office documents.

Grayed out buttons in ribbon

What is Compatibility Mode?

The intentions of Compatibility Mode are in the right place. Its purpose is to make a document as functional as possible with older versions of software. So if you are using Office 365, and your friend is running Office 2010, you could send this Compatibility Mode document to them and rest assured it will look the same to them as it does to you.

For this reason, you will often see data that is exported from other programs; Reporting Services and WSU Reporting, for instance; default to Compatibility Mode. The software programmers aren’t sure what version of Office you will be using, so they err on the safe side, and have the export default to Compatibility Mode.

Another possibility: you are opening an old document. If someone created this document in 2001, and never updated the file format since then (we will talk about this further down), chances are you are in Compatibility Mode by default.

Missing Features

Earlier I mentioned that PivotTables are often the first place people notice missing features in the ribbon…

Grayed out buttons in ribbon

… But this happens in other Excel tabs, PowerPoint, and Word as well.

Grayed out buttons

The features that gray out vary from version to version, but bottom line, newer features are what disappear in Compatibility Mode. When someone is experiencing these ghosts of buttons, this is almost always the culprit.

How to identify Compatibility Mode

How do you know for sure if your document is in Compatibility Mode? There are several ways.

1. You might have some visual cues; the icons look slightly different in Compatibility Mode, shown below, on the left side of the icons.

Icons

2. At the top of your document, next to the title, you might see the words Compatibility Mode

Compatibility Mode

3. Go to your Save As screen (File, Save As). What do you see in the dropdown under the title? If it says Excel 97-2003 Workbook, you are in Compatibility Mode.

Save As screen file type drop down

In fact, stay in the Save As screen, and I will show you how to fix this.

How to Escape From This Setting (and get your favorite features back)

In your Save As screen (shortcut: F12), Compatibility Mode reads as Excel 97-2003 as the File type (dropdown under the document title).

Save As screen file type drop down

To fix this issue, click on the dropdown under the title, and select the first option for Type: Excel Workbook in this case (Word Document for Word and PowerPoint Presentation for PowerPoint).

Save As screen file type drop down

Important: you must close the file and reopen it to see the new options appear.

That’s it! You have your features back! I hope this helps with some of your legacy documents or documents exported from various sources.

Thoughts?

What do you think? Have you been plagued by the trials and tribulations of Compatibility Mode?

Congratulations, Power Users!

Congratulations to our newest Power Users! For the full gallery, and more information about the WSU Microsoft Office Power User Program, please visit: wichita.edu/poweruser