saving files for older versions

by Nate Hekman on March 24, 2008

Lori (one of our support engineers) asked if I could write something about how a v7 user can save a file such that someone in another office using v6 can still open it.

I almost said No.

Because the fact of the matter is you can’t do that.  I can’t even think of a good workaround.  And I’d much rather write about what you can do than what you can’t, I guess it’s a pride thing.

But let me humble myself enough to tackle this tough question anyway, and then solicit your feedback.  When you’re done reading this, please leave a comment or email me and tell me if this is something that has bothered you, how you’ve dealt with it, how you would expect to use such a feature, and what other comparable software you use that does allow you to save to an older format.

Backward Compatibility

The term “backward compatible” means a new piece of software is able to open a file created by an older version.

We put a lot of effort into making our new versions backward compatible.  GeoStudio 2007 can open a file you created in GeoStudio 2004.  It can even open a file you created with version 1 of SLOPE/W, and I believe even PC-SLOPE.

Of course we can’t always open an old file “cleanly”–some old features get dropped, and it’s not always possible to upgrade a file.  For example, SLOPE/W version 5 and earlier used lines to define the geometry.  Beginning with version 6 (GeoStudio 2004) we switched to regions.  GeoStudio 2004 will open most SLOPE/W v5 files and convert those lines into regions, but some files with complicated (or typically incorrect) lines won’t convert properly.  In those cases we import what we can and display a warning, and it’s up to you to fix up whatever the software wasn’t able to do.

Forward Compatibility

To be “forward compatible” means an old piece of software can open a file created by a newer version.

That generally takes prescience.

Interestingly our software was forward-compatible up until version 5, for the most part.  If SEEP/W v4 opened a SEEP/W v5 file it would do so without complaining, just ignoring any extra v5 features.  But this was “accidental”, not by design, and it could be dangerous because some data may not make sense or not be correct now that other data is missing.

Beginning with version 6 our file format has changed drastically, so older versions are simply unable to open newer files. 

This is similar to Microsoft Word:  Word 2007 creates files with the .docx extension, which cannot be opened by older versions of Word.

Saving in Older Formats

Word gets around the lack of forward compatibility in their new docx file format by allowing you to save your Word document using the old .doc format.  You may lose some of the new fancy features of Word 2007, but at least your colleague with Word 2000 can still open your files.

So why can’t we do that?  Why can’t GeoStudio 2007 have a “Save in GeoStudio 2004 format” option?

There are some technical reasons.  Some v7 features just don’t translate back to v6.  For example, a v7 file can include any number of analyses, whereas v6 can only have one of each kind.

There are some practical reasons.  A file you save in an old format and then open with the new version would be cumbersome.  For example, in v7 you create lists of boundary condition objects which you then apply to regions, points and lines.  Save that as v6 and the list of BCs disappears, and you’re just left with BCs on individual nodes.  Try opening that in v7 again and we salvage the BCs as best we can into a list, but we’ve lost the information about what regions, points or lines they were on so you have to re-apply them.

Saving in old file formats is one of those features that introduces more questions than answers when it’s discussed around our halls.  It’s technically feasible but it would involve a lot of effort and we’re not convinced people would actually be happy with what they’d get out of it.

Viewer License

The best workaround I can think of is to use the Viewer License.  Say you’re working in v7 and you need to send your file to a supervisor who only has v6.  Your supervisor can install v7 (a free download) and use the (included) free Viewer License to open your file and look at it.  He just won’t be able to save it.

Your Opinion

I’ve said before that we do listen to your opinion.  This is one of those areas where if there was enough demand for it, we would take the time to do it.

Do you run more than one version of our software in your organization?  Do you exchange files with other offices?  Have you been affected by file format changes?

Let me know!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


marganda 04.01.08 at 5:09 pm

Hi All.

I am GIS Programming, use map basic for programming map info , i need your help to costumize new menu in geostudio 2004 or geostudio 2007.
Can any body help my needs to program geostudio, or are there special program language for geostudio 2004 / 2007 ???

Thank you


Nate 04.02.08 at 6:33 am

Hello gbu. There’s no way to make changes to the GeoStudio menus. GeoStudio 2007 supports “add-ins”, however, which can be programmed in any .NET language (such as C# or Visual Basic). You can see a quick overview of Add-Ins on our web site, and follow the links for information on writing your own.


sanjay 08.12.08 at 1:07 am

in our organisation, we use slope/W 7.0 in one office and Slope/w 5.0 in other office.
while trasfering the file we always have to print them or send images. which is painfull and time comsuming process.
is there any software or method to convert new version files to older version?


Nate 08.12.08 at 9:27 am

No, unfortunately there is no way to convert from a newer format to an older one. As you’re aware, SLOPE/W changed considerably from version 5 to version 7. Version 5 used lines to define the geometry; version 7 (as well as 6) uses regions. Version 7 also has many other features not available in 5. For these reasons it would be very difficult to automatically convert a v7 file back down to v5.


zerg 02.26.09 at 9:30 am

We currently use GS2004. Some people in our office went through other offices, where GS2007 is used. These ones came back with GS2007. Recently, it became impossible to work together, because of lacks in saving to older format, and because of lacks in understanding the principles described in this page. Most softwares take into account cross-version compatibility. I think this is not only a business decision: even open source developers spend a lot of efforts for this. Technically, I do not feel the necessity to upgrade to GS2007, but I will for sure, because our GS2007 users will certainly not downgrade. All in all, I do not feel comfortable with cross-version incompatibilities.


Nate 02.26.09 at 2:50 pm

Thanks for the comment, zerg. You’re certainly not the only one to feel this way. Compatibility between versions is something I realize we don’t do as well as many people expect of modern software, and it’s the subject of frequent discussions amongst our team. We appreciate hearing feedback from users such as yourself–in fact I sent your comment around the office today for everyone to read.

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