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Use PowerShell to convert old Office files into new formats

Move files into SharePoint 2

A SharePoint tutorial by Peter Kalmstrom

PowerShell iconPeter Kalmstrom, CEO of kalmstrom.com Business Solutions and Microsoft certified SharePoint specialist, has in an assignment prepared a move of millions of Office files into SharePoint.

In that process he also converted old files to the modern, XML based file formats with the help of a PowerShell script, something that is shown in the demo below. 

Modern file formats

Office 2013 logoWith Office 2007 Microsoft introduced new file formats with an x or m addition to the suffix. These formats are based on Open XML, which have now become a standard. Such modern file formats are .docx, .xlsx and .pptx.

These are some benefits of the modern file formats:
  • They save space, as they are automatically compressed with a .zip technique.
  • They are more secure as files with the x suffix don't allow macros.
  • They separate different data components from each other, so that files can be opened even if a component - for example a chart - is damaged.
  • As they all build on Open XML you can unlock information in existing systems and use it in Office programs, and information created in Office can be used by other business applications.

broken link

Links will be broken

There is also an important drawback to consider, as always when you convert files to other formats: links with the old file extensions will not work when the suffix has been changed.

PowerShell script

The actual conversion can be made manually, by saving each file in the new format or with the Microsoft Migration Manager.

Peter shows a third way, a PowerShell script that opens the files and saves them as new files in a modern format. In the demo below he explains the script and shows how it works.

The PowerShell script gives Peter a better control over the process than the Microsoft tool does, and it has the advantage of keeping the change dates of the original files. That way you can see when the file with the old extension was changed even though you have converted it.

To consider

Before you start converting old Office files there are some things you should check:
  • Office language packs must be installed.
  • The save format must be set to the new one for each Office program.
  • The folder in which you are converting files must be added to the trusted locations.
  • You must disable protected view on the files you will convert.

You are welcome to download the script shown in the demo: https://www.kalmstrom.com/Tips/Files/ConvertOfficeFiles.zip

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