Can’t Open new Word “.docx” files

Q. Our client has recently started sending us Word files that we cannot open. They say they have the latest version of Word. Is there another way that they can save their files?

A. Your customer has recently upgraded to either Word 2007 on Windows or Word 2008 on Macintosh. Previous versions of Word and Excel stored the data that made up the file in a binary format. This made it difficult to work with, outside of Microsoft’s suite. If you take a close look at the filename you may see that the file extension is “.docx”. This is a new format from Microsoft based on “Office Open XML” format = making the files more portable. This means that more features can be contained in a single document using specialized document objects.

If you have the new Word installed you can avoid complications when sending out files by choosing “Save As” and selecting “Word 97- 2004” format. That will ensure that the file is saved in the older, more familiar file format. If you need to, you can choose “Preferences” from the “Word 2008″ menu on your Mac and choose “Word 97 – 2004” format from the Word tab. On a PC, click the “Office Button”, go to “Word Options” and choose “Word 98-2003” format.

Microsoft has also made file converters available for converting “.docx” files on a Mac or PC without the new Office Suite. On a PC you can install the “Office Compatibility Pack” ( For Macintosh you can download the Open XML converter at (

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