What Is a DOCX File?

Microsoft has used this word-processing document format since 2007

What to Know

  • A DOCX file is a Microsoft Word Open XML Format Document file.
  • Open with Word, Word Online, Google Docs, or some other word processor.
  • Convert one to PDF, DOC, JPG, etc. with those same programs or a converter like FileZigZag.

This article explains more about DOCX files, like how to open one or convert it to a format that's compatible with other software.

What Is DOCX?

A file with the DOCX file extension is a Microsoft Word Open XML Format Document file.

DOCX files are used for everything from resumes and cover letters to reports, flyers, documentation, invitations, newsletters, and more. These files usually contain text but can also include objects, styles, rich formatting, and images.

Microsoft started using DOCX files in Microsoft Word beginning in Word 2007, while earlier versions of Word use the DOC file extension.

DOCX files are smaller and easier to support than DOC files because the format is XML-based and all the content is stored as separate files, and ultimately compacted in a single, ZIP-compressed file.

Microsoft Word uses the DOCM format, too, but there are other similar file extensions that don't have anything to do with these Microsoft formats, like DDOC and ADOC.

How to Open a DOCX File

Microsoft Word (version 2007 and above) is the primary software program used to open and edit DOCX files. If you have an earlier version of Microsoft Word, you can download the free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack to open, edit, and save DOCX files in your older version of MS Word.

Actually, you don't even need to open a DOCX file with Word because Microsoft has a free Word Viewer program that lets you open Word documents like DOCX files without needing to have MS Office installed. 

Screenshot showing a DOCX file open online with Microsoft Word Online

What's more, you don't even need any Microsoft Office/365-related program on your computer to open this type of file because there are several completely free word processor programs that open and edit DOCX files. WPS, OpenOffice Writer, and ONLYOFFICE are some that we recommending on a regular basis.

The free Google Docs tool is an online word processor that can also open/edit DOCX files and, being a web-based tool, doesn't require any software downloads. This also means, of course, that any DOCX files you want to use with Google Docs must be uploaded to the tool before they can be viewed and edited.

Microsoft Word Online is another way to view and edit DOCX files online. That service is from Microsoft, so it looks a bit like the desktop version of Microsoft Word, but it's completely free.

Google also has a free Chrome extension that lets you view and edit DOCX files right inside your browser. It supports dragging local DOCX files into the Chrome browser as well as opening DOCX files directly from the internet without having to download them first.

The now-defunct Microsoft Works opens DOCX files, too. While not free, Corel WordPerfect Office is another option, which you can pick up at Amazon.

How to Convert a DOCX File

Most people are interested in converting a DOCX file to PDF or DOC, but the programs and services below support a number of additional file formats as well.

The quickest, easiest, and most effective way to convert a DOCX file is to just open it in one of the word processor programs mentioned above and then save it to your computer as the file format you'd like it to be in. Most applications do this through the File > Save As menu, or something similar.

Screenshot showing how to convert DOCX to PDF or ODT from the Microsoft Word Online tool

If that doesn't seem to work for you, you could use a dedicated converter from our list of free file converter software programs and online services, like Zamzar or FileZigZag. These are great examples of online DOCX converters that can save the file to not only document formats like DOC, PDF, ODT, and TXT but also eBook formats and image formats like MOBI, LIT, JPG, and PNG.

To convert your DOCX file to the Google Docs format to edit the file there, all you have to do is upload it to your account. This can be done from Google Drive's New > File upload menu or directly from Google Docs via the file picker icon.

Calibre is a very popular free program that converts DOCX to eBook formats, too, like EPUB, MOBI, AZW3, PDB, PDF, and several others. We recommend reading their instructions on converting Word documents for some help making an eBook from your DOCX file.

  • How do I open a DOCX file on Android?

    If you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, download the Microsoft Word app from Google Play. Select the DOCX file on your device and choose to open it in the Word app. If you don't have the Word app, you can open and edit DOCX files in Google Docs on your smartphone by first uploading them to your drive by selecting the plus (+) sign > Upload.

  • How can I open DOCX files on a Mac?

    A straightforward method is to use the Pages app, which comes built-in on most Macs. If you don't have it, you can download the Pages app for free from the App Store. Right-click the DOCX document and select Open With > Pages. To convert it to a different file format such as PDF or Word, select File > Export To > file format.

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