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".docx" is the new extension used by Microsoft Word 2007. There are a couple of approaches if you're exchanging documents with users of older versions.

When I try to attach a document to emails I have discovered that the recipients cannot open them. They're telling me that there's a 'docx' on the end of the subject. I didn't have this problem with my old computer, I now have a gateway XP Pro.

I'm going to guess that with your new computer you also got some new software. In fact, I'm going to further guess one of those new software packages is Microsoft Office 2007.

If that's the case, then what we have here is a classic cross-version compatibility issue. Fortunately there are two ways to solve the problem.

You can solve it, or your recipients can.

".docx" is the new file extension that Microsoft Word 2007 uses when it saves documents in the new default format. So you might save your document as "letter", but what Word 2007 writes to disk is "letter.docx" where previous versions would write "letter.doc". (I assume that ".docx" means .doc "extended", but that's an unimportant assumption.)

As I said there are two possible solutions.

Save in the old format

In Word 2007, rather than just hitting Save, click on the "Office Button" to drop down what we used to think of as the "File" menu, and hover the mouse over Save As:

Microsoft Office Word 2007 Save As options

Note that I've called out the option so save as a Word 97-2003 Document. This will save the file in the format used by these earlier versions of Word, and will do so with the normal ".doc" extension.

If you always want to save in the older compatible format you can click on the Word Options button (always visible at the bottom of the menu displayed with the "Office Button"), and then click on Save at the left of the resulting dialog:

Microsoft Office Word 2007 Save Options

As you can see, you can select the Save files in this format dropdown. The default, as you might expect, is Word Document (*.docx). Change that to Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc) and your documents will be saved in the old compatible way.

"'.docx' is the new file extension that Microsoft Word 2007 uses when it saves documents in the new default format"

Open in the new format

I actually covered this in a previous article: there is a "compatibility pack" that users of older versions of Word (and Excel and PowerPoint) can download and install to enable those versions of the product to read the newer file formats directly.

In your scenario you would do nothing different. You'd keep sending out the new ".docx" documents. Your recipients, however, would all need to download and install the converters to be able to read what you've sent; or upgrade to Office 2007.

Which is the right solution for you depends on your situation. If your recipients expect to have lots of .docx files coming their way or just want to be ready if and when they do, then perhaps asking them to install the converter isn't that big a deal. On the other hand saving in the older formats to begin with minimizes the impact on them - at least for documents that you send.

Article C3038 - May 28, 2007 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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30 Comments
Dave B.
May 28, 2007 3:02 PM

Interesting tid-bit for hardcore nerds - the new Office formats (such as DOCX) are actually ZIP files. Rename a DOCX to ZIP, then open it. Ta-da! Lots of interesting XML for the text, styles, and themes - the binary files are stored in their native state. Compressing the XML can make the DOCX file much smaller than the old DOC files - often by 50%. Some folks are converting from DOC to DOCX just to save file space. This also means that information inside the DOCX can be updated without using Word. Systems that need to update content dynamically within a document can do so programmatically without using Office automation. Sweet!

joseph borg micallef
July 30, 2007 8:33 AM

i have document dcx and i cannot download .what can i do?

Mickey
October 15, 2007 1:11 AM

Mac and P.C. users that do not own Microsoft Office, or users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office that are not covered by Microsoft compatibility pack, but still want to convert open and use Word 2007 DOCX or Excel 2007 XLSX files on their own computer, can use "docxconverter 2.0". See:
http://www.panergy-software.com/products/docxconverter/features.html

Melissa
January 23, 2008 9:52 PM

Hi Leo. I love your site! I just wanted to let you know that we recently encountered this problem and our solution was to open it in Pages on the Mac. My husband is a teacher and unfortunately he is stuck using a PC the school provides with next to no tech support. So, he would not be allowed to install the MS update (or any other software) and it would be difficult for him to get ALL of his students and colleagues to convert their files so that his old computer can read them. However, I told him to reference the link to this page when and if he does request the sender to convert the file. (But thats like, you know, following instructions and that is usually a lot to ask of most! ha ha ha)

In the meantime, for us at least, it's much easier for my husband to forward to me the email from his PC at school, I open the attachments on my Mac at home using iWork Pages, export them to Word, then re-attach them and send them back to my husband. It only takes seconds to do and is much more efficient than waiting for the response from the original sender. I just wanted to share this trick with you. Thanks again for such a wonderful reference! I share it any chance I get!

Jeffrey Mehr
January 25, 2008 5:14 AM

Informative article, but it would be extra helpful if you included a link to where I could download the compatibility pack.
Thanks.

Leo A. Notenboom
January 25, 2008 4:11 PM

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Hash: SHA1

The "previous article" that this article links to is about,
and has the link to, the compatibility pack.

Thanks,

Leo


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dan fuchslin
February 13, 2008 10:42 PM

First time on your site. Quick question, I upgarded to 2007 office and for some reason my clients can not open my emails, it put my text like it is an attachment and also sends a wmv. file and another attachement. I never had a problem with office 2000. can is send my e-mail in a lower format or something??? I know about saving in WoRD and Excel to a lower version but cant figure this out. Help

Andrew Z
February 24, 2008 8:58 PM

You can also use http://www.zamzar.com, which is an online converter and here is a review: http://www.oooninja.com/2008/02/zamzarcom-docx-odt-converter-review.html

Another way is OxygenOffice, which is a special edition of OpenOffice.org. You can use OO to convert to older formats such as .doc: http://www.oooninja.com/2008/02/installing-oxygenoffice-fedora-7.html

Barbara
March 31, 2008 7:24 PM

Hi Leo
Could you please advise me on sending emails regarding attachement, i send files regarding applying for employment positions and i have difficulty in knowing if the recipient will receive ok and is readable, i have XP and email is outlook express 6, when sending files what format do i send them in could you please help with this problem - i was asked to send in Word Format to job application and was not sure of format.... please help
Barbara

Betty J. Klein
May 27, 2008 8:07 PM

I have Word 2007 installed on my laptop. Why can't I open a docx file? What do I need to do?

Any help you can give would be appreciated.

Betty

chitra devi
June 24, 2008 4:26 AM

Hi,

I have to open MS Word 2000 document in MS Word 2003 without formatting changes.

How can i do.

what are the steps to be done for that.

I need the formatting to be displayed as in MS Word 2000 documents.

My friend told me to save the MS Word 2000 document as .docx extension will this be useful for this.

please response.

Thanks & Regards,
Chitra.

cmait
December 31, 2008 12:04 PM

I have vista and the computer won't open any doc files. How do I get the doc file extension? Pleae help

You probably need to install a program that understands .doc files, like Microsoft Word, the free Word Viewer, or OpenOffice.
- Leo
01-Jan-2009

Big Lou
January 8, 2009 10:55 PM

I needed some answers as to why I was unable to attach many of my Word files as they were the docx files. Your website was SUPER easy to understand and I got the answers to my questions right away.
Thanks

Brenda Webb
July 22, 2009 10:42 AM

I have 2007 microsoft on my laptop and recently got laid off. I have been to numerous website and have tried to upload my resume and got error docx "can use this format". I didn't know what was wrong. Glad I found your webpage. Thanks a million.

chioma
March 11, 2010 12:18 PM

my .docx documents cant be attached to an email, and i tried changing them to .doc but they still wont change.

Mike
October 31, 2010 6:21 PM

Hi Leo,

I use Office 2010 and my work involves editing documents that I receive from many different customers. Their versions of Office range from 2000 to 2010 and I want to ensure I always send my revisions back to them in the same format they used when they sent the original files to me.
I know how to change the default format for saving files from .dox to .doc and vice versa, but often as not I forget to check the format before I save my "_Revised" copy.
What I'd like to do is set Office (Word in particular) so that the default is not necessarily "doc" or "docx"; I want the default to be "whatever format the original file is in when I receive it" -- i.e just don't change the format.
Is there any way to set this? Or am I just going to have to remember to always check the format I'm saving in?

Not that I'm aware of. You might have a peek out at http://word.tips.net to see if they have any ideas there.
Leo
01-Nov-2010

Matt
July 14, 2011 7:04 PM

Just a quick comment to say I appreciate awesome guys like yourself who post answers like this to help us out. Thanks a heap! :D

Trish2040
July 28, 2011 3:55 PM

As outlined in above Article C3038(05.28.2007) >Changed Word Options from *.docx to *.doc successfully but how do I open files "stuck" in *.docx ? When I click a file labeled DOCX in My ocuments>Pop up "View and Track Downloads" appears with Open or Save> neither works and then Internet Expl Closes. How do I undo view and track downloads of my docs in Word ?Thanks for any help you can give me.

Trish2040
July 29, 2011 2:39 PM

sent post prematurely>>Details for above "Problem Solved". Just renamed the file extension to .doc >> Now I can open all files that were previously "stuck" in DOCX.At Leo's suggestion, I changed the "Save Files in this Format" to Word 97-2003 Documents. WE LOVE YOU LEO !! Thanks for the forum.Trish2040

Linda
August 19, 2011 8:41 PM

I am so struggling here. I am writing in Microsoft Office 2007. I write educational materials for teachers. When I send a document to the editor, I goes in the docx format. She can't open the document. I tried saving in the Word 97 -2003 document. All my pages are messed up, text boxes flying everywhere and graphics can't be seen. What am I doing wrong? Getting really frustrated. Thanks for the help.

Cindy
January 16, 2012 1:12 PM

Leo! You're a genius! Thanks for the tip on how to swap to Word saving as a "doc" file instead of a "docx" file. Thanks SO much!

Sandra G
January 21, 2012 9:33 PM

Please, I am taking University courses (an adult back to school); and I am running Windows XP on my PC. I have never used doc.x files, but this course I'm taking online requires files to be submitted as .doc or .doc s format. Could you please help me figure out how to do this? I do not use Word, so I am not really familiar with that, I only use One Note as a Biology major I don't need these other forms usually. But do for this particular coarse I'm taking. Thank you very much.

Sandra G
January 21, 2012 9:52 PM

Ok, I apologize to bother you again. I printed out this page above and got my Word into the format as you describe. However, when I went to send the document to myself as a test case, my Word won't let me send any emails. So when I hit on "send", it opens a screen in which the email option is all light grey and doesn't work. I have no idea why not. What now? Please advise. Thank you so much.

You need to have an email program installed on your PC to send a Word document that way. If you don't then instead go to your email (however you do that) compose a new email and then add the document to that email as an attachment.
Leo
22-Jan-2012
rakel
March 26, 2012 9:12 AM

Hi,

When I am trying to open a .doc file received by email the computer is using notepad automatically and I cannot read the file. The system only gives me the choice to save it as notepad nor I can use word to open.

What can I do? how can I open directly with word?

thanks a million

connie
March 26, 2012 9:25 AM

@Rakel,
You may have to save the file to your hard drive, and then right-click on it > select Open With > and choose to open with Word. Alternately, save it to disk, open your Word program and use File > Open to find the file and open it.

You may also be able to fix this by changing the default program for opening .doc files in Windows. Here is an article on changing that in Vista.
Where did file associations go in Vista?
There are some links at the bottom of this article that will help if you have another operating system.

Lois
May 17, 2012 9:54 PM

I have received a docx file via email but cannot open it a message comes up saying "cannot open because it is either not a supported file type or because the file has been damaged (for example it was sent as an email attachment and wasn't correctly decoded). Any help would be gratefully received,

Mark J
May 17, 2012 11:09 PM

@Lois
If you download the MS Office Compatibility Pack, you should be able to open .docx files.

Lois
May 19, 2012 3:37 PM

Thank you so much all the way from New Zealand your advice worked perfectly

Anonymous
February 28, 2013 8:50 AM

I have a related question to the article-what are the odds that a person won't be able to open a docx. attachment? Is it uncommon? Should I assume they won't be able to open it?

Mark J
March 1, 2013 2:21 AM

@Anonymous
If a person has Office 2003 or older, they won't be able to open .docx files. I can't give you any odds, but you safely assume some people won't be able to open them. I generally save my documents in .doc or .rtf format.
There is a free compatibility pack download from Microsoft which allows versions Word from 2000 to 2003 to work with .docx files.

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