If you find yourself needing to access Office Open XML documents created by Windows users in Word 2007, Microsoft now has a free beta converter that may help. The can convert .docx and .docm documents (the latter are Word macro-enabled documents) into RTF format, which can be opened in Word 2004 and Word X on the Mac. The converter provides both individual file and batch conversion.
In this beta release, macros and Visual Basic scripts are dropped from the converted file, and charts and SmartArt graphics are converted to pictures. Other problems that might crop up in the beta include resizing of graphics, loss of color fills and shading in tables, loss of certain document formatting and layout, loss of some Unicode characters and picture bullets, and font substitution. The conversion might fail entirely if the document contains a bibliography, citations, WordArt, or very large pictures, or if you use an SMB network volume as the destination. To summarize all that, most documents should convert fine, but some that use less-common features may have troubles. Nonetheless, it's great to see Microsoft's Mac Business Unit releasing this beta now; even though it's clearly not done, it will undoubtedly be useful to Mac users right away. Now if only they could give it a snappier name.
The Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac beta is a 24.9 MB download and expires on 31-Dec-07. It requires Mac OS X 10.4.8, and either at least Office 2004 11.3.4 or Office X 10.1.9 to open the converted documents. Free upgrades to both versions of Office are available from Microsoft's.
If you find yourself needing a conversion capability that this free beta doesn't support, it's worth taking a look at Panergy's $20, which promises to convert the majority of Word 2007 features to RTF as well.
Microsoft tells us that updates to the converter in a few months will include support for PowerPoint and Excel documents, and a version of it that provides read/write conversion will be integrated into Office 2004 six to eight weeks after the release of Office 2008 for Mac. For more about it, check out in the Mac Mojo blog.