Yes. But first, a little background on the problem. Those old .doc Word files that you’re used to have been around for years, and are used by just about everybody. There’s something wonderful about this ubiquity – if you send a .doc file to someone, you are pretty much guaranteed he will be able to read it. But the format is also very old – its basic structure has remained mostly unchanged for the past two decades.
Beginning with Office 2007, Microsoft unveiled a new file format, called Open XML. This format uses the .docx extension, and is the default file format in Office 2007. These .docx files have several advantages over the old .doc files. They take up far less disc space (Microsoft claims the savings range from 25 to 50 per cent), offer more security against viruses, and are less prone to being corrupted. (In .doc files, if an embedded image is corrupted, the whole file is usually ruined. Not so with .docx files.)
However, the .docx rollout was met by a backlash. The problem: unless they are updated, older versions of Word are unable to read the new .docx files. In fact, just about everybody I know who uses Office 2007 chooses to save documents as .doc files, despite the .docx format’s technological superiority.
But there are ways around this problem. If you have an older version of Word, you can still open .docx files – just go to Microsoft’s Web site and download a free update called the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. For Mac users, there’s a similar download called Open XML Converter.
Of course, many corporate IT departments limit employees’ ability to download and install new files on their computers. If you have this problem – or if you just want to open a file in a pinch – head to a Webbased file conversion site. These sites take uploaded .docx files and e-mail you back a .doc version. My favourite is zamzar.com. It’s quick and easy, and it allows you to switch among just about every file format.