Types of Compatibility Problems

You need to be aware of five categories of potential compatibility problems. These are listed here and discussed further in this chapter:

♦ File format issues: Workbooks can be saved in several different Excel file formats. Earlier versions of Excel might not be able to open workbooks that were saved in a later version file format.

♦ New feature issues: It should be obvious that a feature introduced in a particular version of Excel cannot be used in previous versions of Excel.

♦ 32-bit versus 16-bit issues: If you use Windows Application Programming Interface (API) calls, you need to pay attention to this issue if your application must work with 16-bit versions of Excel (such as Excel 5).

♦ Windows versus Macintosh issues: If your application must work on both platforms, plan to spend lots of time ironing out various compatibility problems.

♦ International issues: If your application will be used by those who speak another language, you must address a number of additional issues.

After reading this chapter, it should be clear that there is only one way to ensure compatibility: You must test your application on every target platform and with every target version of Excel. Often, this is simply not feasible. However, there are measures that you, as a developer, can take to help ensure that your application works with different versions of Excel.

If you're reading this chapter in search of a complete list of specific compatibility issues among the various versions of Excel,you will be disappointed. As far as I know, no such list exists, and it would be virtually impossible to compile one.These types of issues are far too numerous and complex.

A good source for information about potential compatibility problems is Microsoft's online Knowledge Base.The URL is


This will often help you identify bugs that appear in a particular version of Excel.

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