All About Compatibility Mode in Microsoft Excel: [Turn Off or On]

Ever found yourself struggling to open a spreadsheet shared by a colleague using an older version of Microsoft Excel? Enter Excel Compatibility Mode—the ultimate bridge between past and present!

Excel Compatibility Mode is the secret feature in Microsoft Excel that guarantees seamless collaboration and hassle-free file sharing, regardless of which Excel version you’re using. Compatibility Mode ensures that even the most complex features and formatting remain intact, allowing you to focus on what matters most—your data!

In this blog post, you’ll deep dive into the fascinating world of Excel Compatibility Mode and uncover its magic in making compatibility issues a thing of the past. Get ready to conquer compatibility challenges and embrace the future of Excel together!

What Is Excel Compatibility Mode?

Compatibility Mode in Excel is a viewing mode that allows you to open and view workbooks created in older versions of Excel. When you open a workbook in compatibility mode, Excel displays it as it would have been seen in the version of Excel in which it was created. This means that any features that were added to Excel after the workbook was created will be unavailable.

There are a few reasons why you might want to use compatibility mode. One reason is if you need to share a workbook with someone who is using an older version of Excel. Another reason is if you’re working on a workbook that contains features that you do not want to use.

Here are some of the features that are unavailable in compatibility mode:

  • New worksheet functions
  • Any formatting options new to the file
  • New chart types
  • Any new features in the ribbon

If you need to use one of these features, you’ll need to convert the workbook to the current file format. It means you need to disable the Excel Compatibility Mode.

How to Tell Compatibility Mode Is Active

It’s quite easy to tell if you’ve opened an Excel file in compatibility mode or not.

The common way is to check the mode of the opened workbook in Excel. After opening an Excel file, look at the top of the file and you should see Compatibility Mode if the same is active.

What is compatibility mode in Excel

The Compatibility Mode indicator text will be at the right side of the file name and at the left side of the Excel Search bar. Refer to the above image for a better understanding. Now, see the difference of the same file opened without Compatibility Mode below:

Without compatibility mode

If you don’t see the Compatibility Mode signal beside the Excel workbook name but feel like it’s in Compatibility Mode, follow these steps to confirm:

Excel workbook is in compatibility mode
  1. Click the File tab on the Excel ribbon menu.
  2. On the left-side navigation panel, click on Info.
  3. If the file is in compatibility settings, you’ll see the Compatibility Mode button on the Info page.
  4. If you don’t see this, the file isn’t in the above mode.

Excel Compatibility Mode: Key Considerations

  • When you save a workbook in Compatibility Mode, Excel saves it in the older file format. This means that anyone who opens the workbook will need to be using a version of Excel that can read the older file format.
  • If you make changes to a workbook that is in Compatibility Mode, Excel will save the changes in the older file format. This means that if you open the workbook in a newer version of Excel, you may not see the changes that you made.
  • If you need to share a workbook with someone who is using a newer version of Excel, it’s best to convert the workbook to the current file format before you share it. This will ensure that the recipient can open the workbook and see all of the changes that you have made.

Why Is Excel in Compatibility Mode?

Excel can be in Compatibility Mode for several reasons. Here are a few common scenarios:

1. Opening An Older Excel File

When you open a file created in an earlier version of Excel, the software automatically switches to Compatibility Mode to ensure that the file remains accessible and editable.

2. Using Unsupported Features

If the Excel file contains features or functionalities that are not supported in the current version of Excel, Compatibility Mode is activated to prevent any issues and allow the file to be opened and used.

3. Sharing Files With Older Versions

If you share an Excel file with someone who is using an older version of Excel, Compatibility Mode is enabled to ensure that they can open and work with the file without compatibility problems.

4. Converting From Another File Format

When converting a file from a different format, such as CSV or XLS, to the native XLSX format, Excel may activate Compatibility Mode to maintain compatibility with the original file format.

5. Troubleshooting Excel Files

If you’re facing problems in opening or viewing a workbook in Excel, you can try opening the workbook in Compatibility Mode to see if that resolves the issue.

6. Open Password Protected Excel Workbooks

If you receive a password-protected Excel file created in an older version, Compatibility Mode ensures that you can still open and access the file while maintaining the password protection intact.

7. Preserving Macros and VBA Code

When opening a file with macros or Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) code in a newer version of Excel, Compatibility Mode ensures that the macros and code continue to function properly. It helps preserve the functionality and integrity of the file without any disruptions.

How to Check Current File for Backward Compatibility

You might be using the latest Excel desktop app to create an Excel workbook. But it’s possible that the recipient may not have updated to the latest edition of the app or prefer to use a dated version of Excel. In such a situation, you may want to check the backward compatibility of the Excel workbook you create.

This test tells you the features that are going to work in an older Excel app. Accordingly, you can reformat the Excel workbook before sending it. Your ultimate goal should be that the recipient can view the actual data and perform necessary data manipulation or visualization activities on the workbook.

Find below the steps to do a backward compatibility test of an Excel workbook:

Check backward compatibility on Excel workbook
  1. On the Excel ribbon menu, click the File tab to open the left-side navigation panel.
  2. There, select the Info button and hit the Check for Issues button on the right side.
  3. On the drop-down list that opens, click Check Compatibility.
Choose app
  1. The Microsoft Excel – Compatibility Checker dialog box will pop up.
  2. Click the Select version to show drop-down menu and choose the version of the Excel app.
Error message
  1. In the Summary section, Excel will show the backward compatibility issues.
  2. For example, you might see the Significant loss of functionality warning.
  3. Click OK to close the dialog box.

Now, when emailing the Excel workbook, you can mention the compatibility report findings by Excel version numbers. This will give a heads-up to the recipient that which features will be available and which won’t if they use an outdated Excel app.

How to Enable Compatibility Mode in Excel

There are various ways to activate the Compatibility Mode in Excel. Find below some popular techniques:

Using File > Save As

Enable compatibility mode on excel using save as
  1. Click the File tab and hit the Save As button on the left-side navigation panel.
  2. Click Browse to open the Save As dialog box and choose a destination for the new file.
  3. Now, click the Save as type drop-down menu and choose Excel 97-2003 Workbook.
  4. Hit the Save button.
  1. On the Compatibility Checker dialog box click Continue.
  2. You’ll find an Excel workbook in Compatibility Mode in the destination folder.

Utilizing A VBA Script

You can use the following VBA script to automate the above task. Here, you’re going to save the existing Excel workbook of XLSX format in XLS format. This automatically activates the Compatibility Mode in the new Excel file. Here are the steps you must follow:

Create VBA
  1. Open the Excel workbook on which you must enable Excel Compatibility Mode.
  2. Hit the Alt + F11 keys together to bring up the VBA Editor.
  3. There, click Insert and choose Module in the context menu.
  4. Now, copy and paste the following script into the blank Module:
Sub SaveAsXLS()
    Dim FilePath As String
    FilePath = "d:Workbook.xls" ' Replace with the desired file path and name
    ThisWorkbook.SaveAs Filename:=FilePath, FileFormat:=xlExcel8
End Sub
  1. The above code will save the Excel workbook as Workbook in the D-drive of your PC. To modify the name and location, change the FilePath to something else like E:BusinessReport.
  2. Click the Save button and close the VBA Editor.
  3. You might get a notification to modify the Excel workbook to a macro-enabled format. Click Yes on the pop-up.
Run macro
  1. Hit Alt + F8 to open the Macro dialog box and run the SaveAsXLS macro.
  2. Click Continue on the Compatibility Checker dialog box.
  3. Go to the destination folder to find the Excel workbook in Compatibility Mode.

How to Remove Compatibility Mode in Excel

Find below the steps to undo the Compatibility Mode in an Excel file:

Convert file
  1. Open the target file in an updated Excel desktop app like Excel 365.
  2. Click File and choose Info from the left-side panel.
  3. Hit the Convert button and click Yes on the notification that pops up.
  4. The Excel workbook will close and reopen without the compatibility settings.

The above method converts the original file so create a backup of the target file before removing the backward compatibility features.


This is everything you need to know about the Excel Compatibility Mode.

If you follow the methods mentioned in this article to enable Compatibility Mode in an Excel workbook, you won’t face any situation when a recipient tells you that the Excel workbook you sent them isn’t working.

Also, if you receive an Excel workbook in Compatibility Mode but you wish to view all of its features, disable the backward compatibility setting by following the steps mentioned in this Excel tutorial.

Have you ever come across compatibility issues when working in Excel? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author

Tamal Das

Tamal Das

I'm a freelance writer at After completing my MS in Science, I joined reputed IT consultancy companies to acquire hands-on knowledge of data analysis and data visualization techniques as a business analyst. Now, I'm a professional freelance content writer for everything Excel and its advanced support tools, like Power Pivot, Power Query, Office Scripts, and Excel VBA. I published many tutorials and how-to articles on Excel for sites like MakeUseOf, AddictiveTips, OnSheets, Technipages, and AppleToolBox. In weekends, I perform in-depth web search to learn the latest tricks and tips of Excel so I can write on these in the weekdays!


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John MacDougall

I’m John, and my goal is to help you Excel!

You’ll find a ton of awesome tips, tricks, tutorials, and templates here to help you save time and effort in your work.

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