How to Open DOCX Files in Office 2003

May 3, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Microsoft Office is the world’s premium office software and productivity suite, offering popular word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation and email tools that have become household names.

The suite has become so popular that we use the term “PowerPoint” interchangeably with the word “presentation”, much in the way that many people use “Hoover” to refer to a vacuum cleaner in the UK and Ireland.

How to open DOCX files in Office 2003

For many years the .doc, .xls, and .ppt file extensions have been used by Microsoft for their Word, Excel and PowerPoint suites, and these became de facto standards, used by people all around the world. Until 2007, that is, when Microsoft introduced a new file standard for each of their applications, based on XML. As such they became .docx, .xlsx and .pptx.

Even though this was over four years ago, people continue to have issues with Microsoft Office file compatibility largely due to the fact that as little has really changed with Microsoft Office over the past ten years or so, people tend to keep hold of older versions of the software.

File Compatibility in Microsoft Office

It isn’t unusual to hear of people receiving documents in a format that they cannot open, such as the .docx format. This is a perfectly acceptable document type, however, with the file extension indicating that it was created in Word 2007 or 2010 (or 2011 on a Mac).

If you have received such a document and need to open it, rather than upgrade your version of Microsoft Office to 2007 or later, your best bet is to find a different tool that will open this file.

There are two ways of doing this. The first is to employ an open source office solution such as LibreOffice. This suite features a word processor, spreadsheet, database and presentation applications that are all capable of using both the original and XML-based file extensions. Other open source office suites are available, but this is considered the most up-to-date solution. Also, remember that open source means free, so this option will save you from splashing out on new software from Microsoft.

The second way is to use a free utility from Microsoft, the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats, a 37 MB download. Before downloading this, make sure you have the most recent Windows Updates installed.

Once you have saved the download file – which should run without a problem on Windows 7 – run the downloaded FileFormatConverters.exe to start the setup program.

From now on, whenever you receive a .docx, .xlsx or .pptx file via email or saved to disk you will be able to open the document! Note that this does not give you the ability to save data in these formats; also note that saving an XML-based file format as the older Microsoft file format can lead to some loss of formatting.

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