How to Open, Edit, & Convert DOC Files

You don't have to have Microsoft Word to access these documents

What to Know

  • A DOC file is a Microsoft Word document.
  • Open one with MS Word or for free through Google Docs or WPS Office.
  • Convert to PDF, JPG, DOCX, etc. with those same programs or Zamzar.

This article explains what a DOC file is, how to open one with and without MS Word, and how to get it into a different file format like DOCX or PDF.

What Is a DOC File?

A file with the DOC file extension is a Microsoft Word document file. It's the default file format used in Microsoft Word 97-2003, while newer versions of MS Word (2007+) default to using the DOCX file extension.

This format can store images, formatted text, tables, charts, and other things common for word processors.

This older DOC format differs from DOCX mainly in that the latter uses ZIP and XML to compress and store the contents, while DOC does not.

Person opening a DOC file on a computer
Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi

DOC files have nothing to do with DDOC or ADOC files, so double-check that you're reading the file extension carefully before trying to open it.

How to Open a DOC File

Microsoft Word (version 97 and above) is the primary program used for opening and working with DOC files, but it isn't free to use.

There are free alternatives to Microsoft 365/Office that include support for DOC files, like LibreOffice Writer, OpenOffice Writer, and WPS Office Writer. All of these applications can open and edit DOC files.

DOC files in Windows 11 folder

If you don't have a word processor installed on your computer, and you don't want to add one, Google Docs is a nice alternative that lets you upload DOC files to your Google Drive account to view, edit, and even share the file through your web browser. It's much faster to go this route instead of installing a word processor application, plus there are added benefits (but also drawbacks) that you can read about in this review of Google Docs.

Microsoft even has its own free Word Viewer tool that lets you view DOC files (not edit) without needing any MS Office programs on your computer. Their free online version of Word is similar, but it also lets you edit the document.

Do you use the Chrome web browser? If so, you can open DOC files pretty quickly with Google's free Office Editing for Doc, Sheets & Slides extension. It will open DOC files right in your browser that you run into on the internet so that you don't have to save them to your computer and then open them again in a separate program. It also lets you drag a local DOC file right into Chrome and start reading it or editing it with Google Docs.

Also, see this list of Free Word Processors for some additional free programs that can open DOC files.

If you find that an application on your PC does try to open the file but it's the wrong application or you'd rather have another installed program open it, see our how-to guide to changing the default program for a specific file extension to learn how to make that change in Windows.

How to Convert a DOC File

Any good word processor that supports opening a DOC file can most assuredly save the file to a different document format. All the software mentioned above—WPS Office Writer, MS Word (and their online version), Google Docs, etc., can save a DOC file to a different format.

If you're looking for a specific conversion, like DOC to DOCX, keep in mind what we said above about those MS Office alternatives. Another option for converting a DOC file to the DOCX format is to use a dedicated document converter. One example is the Zamzar website—upload the file to that website to be given a number of options to convert it to.

You can also use a free file converter to convert a DOC file to formats like PDF and JPG. One we like to use is FileZigZag because it's like Zamzar in that you don't have to download any programs to use it. It supports saving a DOC file to lots of formats in addition to PDF and JPG, like RTF, HTML, ODT, and TXT.

A 'Google doc' (GDOC file) is different from a DOC file. Although you can, as you read above, upload a DOC file to Google Docs and use it as a Google document, the two are not the same. See How to Convert a Google Doc to PDF if that's what you're after.

Still Can't Open It?

If none of the programs or websites linked above will open your file, there's a good chance that it's not really in this format. This can happen if you've misread the file extension.

For example, while DO is spelled very similarly, files that end in that extension are Java Servlet files, which are completely different from the format Microsoft Word uses. The same is true for many other file extensions, including DCO, DOCZ, CDO, etc.

Carefully examine the letters and/or numbers that follow your file's name, and then research it some more to learn how it opens or how it can be converted into a different format.

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