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I am a math teacher who uses Word 2008 on the Mac, and I need to collaborate with other teachers who are using Word 2007 under Windows. When they send me a document with mathematical equations in it, I can open it but cannot see the equations or the document loses formatting, such as superscript for exponents.

On this page of Known Issues in Word 2008, Microsoft says,

Equations saved from Word 2007 for Windows do not appear in Word 2008 for Mac

Equations saved in Word 2007 for Windows are not supported in Word 2008 for Mac. The equations will be preserved so that they display correctly in Word 2007, but will appear as placeholders in Word 2008.

What can I do to collaborate with users of Word 2007 on mathematical documents?

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The short answer is that Office 2008 for Mac is a weak imitation of Office for Windows.


  • Run a Windows virtual machine on your mac. Use software like VMWare Fusion, Parallels or VirtualBox to create the virtual machine. Install Word for Windows on the virtual machine. You will need to pay for licenses for Windows and Office (on top of what you've already paid for Office for Mac)
  • Try OpenOffice or other alternatives to Word and see which will play nicely with Word's equations.
  • Wait until later in 2010 for the release of Office for Mac 2011. Hope that it plays better with Word for Windows.

None of these is a simple solution.

The virtual machine solution is the most likely to just work after you get it set up, but setting it up will take some time. The OpenOffice solution is quick (and free) to try, but may have some compatibility issues opening and re-saving documents. The Mac team at Microsoft has lots of great things to say on their blog about the next release of Office, but I'll believe it when I see it.

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I tried the latest version of OpenOffice and it did not bring in the formatting properly. – user36081 May 12 '10 at 16:36
That's too bad, it would've been so easy. – Doug Harris May 12 '10 at 19:18

You could ask people to send you files in Office 2003 format. This is a bit of a last resort solution, because the Office 2007 users will lose the benefit of the greatly improved formula editor.

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I'd try and convince everyone to use MathMagic for the equations and keep them separate from the Word document. Everyone can edit the equations and MathMagic is a fairly nice equation editor. You can simply copy and paste the equations as images out of the MathMagic documents.

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