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A DOCX file is a file made in the program Microsoft® Word 2007 or higher. Previous versions of Microsoft® Word used the file format DOC. In general, newer versions of Word can open older Word files, but older versions cannot open the new file type. Opening DOCX files on a computer that does not have Word 2007 or higher requires installing a file converter or converting the file to a different format.
For people who have Microsoft® Word versions going back to 2000 already installed on their computer the easiest method of opening DOCX files is to install the Compatibility Pack, which can be downloaded for free on the Microsoft® Web site. This will make whatever version of Word is installed the default program for opening DOCX files. Similarly, users with Open Office software only need to install the Microsoft® converter pack for Open Office in order to open DOCX files. Features that are available only in Word 2007 or higher will be lost or converted to plain text. The compatibility pack does not allow users to save files in the DOCX format.
There are also a number of free online file converters that do not require the user to download any software in order to open files. Some of these convert the document into plain text or HTML, while others support a variety of file formats including image files. Opening DOCX files as HTML or text may lose most or all special formatting. On the other hand, files opened as images will maintain their original appearance, but the user will not have any ability to modify the document. Some of the same Web sites that offer online converters offer desktop versions that the user can install on his or her computer to convert files offline.
Some email programs have document features that can open DOCX files and display them in the browser. Opening DOCX files this way has the advantage of not requiring special programs or downloads. They do not usually allow users to save files in a common file format other than text or HTML, however. Any special formatting done in these browser-based converters may be lost if the user tries to send the file to another person. Also, these converters vary in how well they reproduce the formatting in the original document.