Friday, March 28, 2008

PowerPoint Viewer cannot open the file

Here is my recent Saga trying to view Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 file saved in Office Open XML format, i.e. pptx.


I work in the Windows world like many others out there and believe in Microsoft products and technologies to most extent, but recent experience in trying to view a pptx file shaken that belief quite a bit. I only have Office 2003 installed on my system and I received a pptx file and needed to view this pptx file.


To view this file on my system, I had to jump through few hoops and spend quite a bit of time. Here is my journey (mostly missteps) and hopefully will save you sometime if you run into the same situation:

1) Thinking it would be a simple process of getting the right viewer, I obtained the PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft website and installed it and then tried to open the file. To my surprise, I get the error "PowerPoint Viewer cannot open the file" ...:

So, I have searched on the web and found the following posting:

According to the Lucy Thomson (PowerPoint MVP) who posted a reply to the original question on this page, 2007 Viewer basically is 2003 Viewer combined with converter that converts 2007 files to 2003 format. I unzipped the contents of the pptx file and everything looks fine as far as its contents. So, there must be something wrong with the converter packaged in that viewer.

2) I emailed the file to my gmail account to see if it would display it there, no luck there also. Gmail only supports ppt files.

3) I searched some more and found this tool called Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. Bingo, now I can open the pptx file using PowerPoint 2003. I am kind of relieved but this is not the end of my saga by any means, read on and you see why.

4) Meanwhile, i.e. while I was searching on Google, I emailed a colleague to see if he was able to open this file on his system. I got the reply saying he was able to open the file but it took longer to open it. He did not give any more details. So, I did little more probing:

  • He was also using Office 2003

  • Did not have to install any software (I thought he must have had to install some addon or something, since the only way I could view the file is by installing Compatibility Pack)

  • Running Office 2003 SP2 (I am also running SP2)

Got me puzzled, then I decided to check his actual version/build # and it turns out that it is slightly higher than my version # even though we both running SP2.

4) So, I thought I would also update my Office 2003 and then I should be able to open the pptx file without any problem. Since I do not like to have any extra software on my system I uninstalled the Compatibility Pack thinking I do not need it.

Now, I updated my Office 2003 to SP3 (that is the only office update choice I had through Windows Update). I figured, it should be OK since I will be getting the latest and greates updates to Office 2003 and I should have no problem opening the pptx files.

So, after I updated to Office 2003 SP3, I tried to open the pptx file and I get the following message asking me if I want to install Compatibility Pack:

I am back to where I started. I hit "No" since I already had the Compatibility Pack downloaded. I installed the "Compatibility Pack" again and now I can open the pptx files.

5) As I have mentioned earlier, I do not like to have any software that I really do not need, so I have uninstalled the Viewer and I could still open the pptx files with my Office 2003 (thanks to Compatibility Pack).

6) You do not necessarily have to have Office 2003 to use the Compatibility Pack, you could also use it with the PowerPoint 2003 Viewer. So, I have installed PowerPoint 2003 Viewer and the Compatibility Pack on a Virtual Machine to see if I can open pptx file using the 2003 viewer and sure enough I could view it.

Lessons Learned

Do not use the PowerPoint Viewer 2007. It is worthless.

If you have Office 2003 installed, then to view/open the pptx files, simply install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.

If you do not have Office 2003, then to view the pptx files, first install the PowerPoint 2003 Viewer and then followed by Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.

Happy PowerPoint Viewing ...