For better or worse, Microsoft Office and its accompanying DOCX file format have become ubiquitous, making us oddly dependent on the Microsoft ecosystem. In reality, though, you’re not as dependent on MS Office as you think, and today just about every writing platform is capable of opening Microsoft Word files. In fact, you don’t even need to own writing software to open DOCX documents, as we’ll show you below.
Note: The methods demonstrated in this post work on Windows and Mac. Some are also available on mobile devices.
1. Word for Web
If you want the absolute best compatibility with DOCX documents, with no strange formatting issues appearing out of nowhere, then the free online version of Microsoft Word is the way to go.
The caveat is that you need a Microsoft account (Hotmail, Outlook, or Gmail will do), and the file needs to be uploaded to OneDrive. If you don’t have or want a Microsoft account, scroll down to the next heading.
- Assuming you have a Microsoft account, track down your DOCX file in File Explorer or your desktop.
- Next, open OneDrive by going to File Explorer and clicking it in the Navigation pane on the left (or by searching for it in the Start menu).
- Drag the DOCX file from its location to the OneDrive folder and drop it there.
- Go to Microsoft Word Online, scroll down a little bit, and look in the lower right corner. You’ll notice a “More on OneDrive” button. Click on it.
- OneDrive will open. You should now spot your document in the list in the middle. If you don’t, scroll down until you can locate it.
- Once you’ve found your DOCX file, double-click it to open it up for editing. It will save automatically to your OneDrive, though you can also download it and email it directly to people if you wish.
- Another alternative is to go to Microsoft Word online directly and press the “Upload” button.
- The file will be automatically uploaded to OneDrive and once that happens the DOCX will open for you.
Tip: Did you know Google Docs has a great library of templates? Here are the best templates for invoices.
2. Google Docs
People are always surprised when told that DOCX documents can actually be opened through Google Docs, but it’s very much a thing.
You’ll need to upload your DOCX file to Google Drive first (either through File Explorer if you have a Google Drive folder on your PC or by opening Google Docs in your browser, then dragging and dropping the file in there) as shown below. Google Docs is also available as an app (Android | iOS.)
- Once in Google Docs, click on the “File picker” icon on the right.
- In the new window, switch to the “Upload” tab and click on the “Browse” button to search for your DOCX file.
- Wait a few seconds until Google Docs uploads the document for you. Once done, the file will open automatically.
- You can start editing immediately, with no extra steps involved.
- When you’re done, you can either use the “Share” button and send the link to the document to others. Or press on “File -> Download.” Select your desired format from there.
- You can even email this file directly from Google Docs.
3. Any Good Free Office Suite
If the cloud’s not your thing, then just about any half-decent office suite will have a word processor capable of opening DOCX files. Two solid examples include LibreOffice and WPS Office. Just install one of the options on your PC and open the document from there. WPS Office is also available on Android and iOS.
- On LibreOffice, open the program and click on the “Open File” button on the left.
- Your DOCX will open immediately.
- You can go ahead and start editing the document.
- When it’s time to save by going to “File -> Save,” LibreOffice will ask you whether to keep the Microsoft format or convert the file to its own ODF alternative. If you’re worried about formatting preservation, opt for the latter.
- Similar steps apply to WPS. It’s incredibly easy to start using it and upload your own DOCX files into the program.
- When it’s time to save you can do so in the same DOCX format or select from the available options including WPS’s own. Go to “Menu -> Save As.”
Good to know: Just getting started with OpenOffice? Check out these tips and tricks to increase productivity.
If you quickly want to view and edit your DOCX document, then it’s possible to open it using a basic text editor such as Wordpad – which comes pre-installed on Windows devices.
- Locate your DOCX file on your desktop or File Explorer.
- Right-click on it and select “Open with” from the context menu.
- Select “Wordpad.” If you can’t see the preliminary list option, click “Choose another app.”
- If you need to see even more, tap “More apps.”
- Wordpad will warn you that it does not support all of the features of your document’s format. If you’re DOCX has complex formatting you might not be able to see it accurately on Wordpad. For basic document viewing and editing, it does the job.
- In this example, Wordpad managed to reproduce the file quite accurately.
- When it’s time to save, Wordpad will advise you to save a copy of the original content just in case.
Tip: Trying to make your document easier to navigate? Here’s how to add a table of contents in Word.
5. Online DOCX Editor
Another option for viewing your documents is an online DOCX editor. There are many options online, but for this post, we are working with Abcdpdf. The service can be accessed from a PC or Mac, as well as from a mobile device (via browser.)
- Go to the Abcdpdf website.
- Click “Upload files” to bring your DOCX onto the platform.
- Your document will appear. Review the DOCX and perform the necessary edits. When done, press the “Save” icon on the left.
- Then press “Download” on the right.
- Select the desired format and then press “Next.”
- Click “Download” again to get your edited document on your PC.
6. Apple Pages
If you’re on Mac, you can use the native Apple Pages text editor to open DOCX files.
- Open the DOCX in Pages just as you would any Pages document.
- The file will be displayed without a problem. You can go ahead and start editing.
- When it’s time to save, you can do so in the original DOCX format and more by going to “File -> Export to.”
Tip: Do you need to sign a PDF on Windows, but don’t want to install additional software? Here’s how to do it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I use Microsoft Office for free?
If you still want to use Microsoft Office, but you don’t want to invest in a Microsoft 356 subscription just yet, here are some workarounds that allow you to access the entire Office suite for free.
Can I save to PDF using any of these options just like in Word?
All options outlined in this article offer the option to save your DOCX as PDF once you’ve reviewed it. The only exception is Abcdpdf, whose Print option doesn’t appear to work. However, other similar tools might offer this option. If you need the reverse here’s how you can convert your PDF to a Word document.
Why can't I edit a DOCX once I've opened it using one of these online tools?
If you can’t edit a DOCX file, then it means the original document might have been locked. You’ll need to ask the owner of the file to unlock it for you. They can do this by opening the file in Word and going to “File -> Info -> Restrict Editing -> Stop Protection.” If they can’t access Word, you will have to wait, because the restrictions can’t be removed using the alternative tools described in this post.
Image credit: Scott Graham via Pexels. All screenshots by Alexandra Arici
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