How to Convert Microsoft Word 2007's .docx File Format to Earlier Versions' .doc File Format for Free

If you've received a Microsoft Office 2007 .docx format file and are unable to open it with earlier Microsoft Office versions of Word, which use the .doc format, this post is for you.

First, what is the difference between .docx and .doc? Office 2007's .docx is a compressed XML file. Actually, you could change the extension from .docx to .zip and open it with a zip file utility. Why the heck would Microsoft change such a successful standard? While .docx are smaller in size than their .doc predecessors, the change is silly considering the affordability of memory and the availability of huge storage devices. No, other reasons were involved, some reasonable, some not so much.

Those using Office 2007 components (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) would do well to save files in the older, more prevalent format if planning to share a file and they are unsure if the intended recipient has 2007. To save as an older format, go to File > Save As > and in the "type" menu save as "Word 97-2003" instead. This will guarantee that those running older versions of Word will be able to open the file.

However, if the sender was not so kind, you still have several options for opening the file. If you have OpenOffice, you can install a free XML from Sourceforge called Open XML Translator. Or you can install Microsoft's own free Office Compatibility Pack.

I like instead using a couple of free online offerings since they don't require any sort of software installation.

  1. oconvert.com has a very simple interface and outputs not only in .doc but .rtf and .pdf, among others and you can immediately download your converted file.
  2. zamzar.com also is free but I like it less due to having to enter your email address for zamzar to send you the converted file. When I tried this out, it took several minutes for the file to arrive. The converted file does remain on zamzar's servers for 24 hours.

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