Is this a familiar scene for you? Someone has sent you a file with the .docx extension and you can’t open it?
Fear not, help is on the way.
Since the early days of Office 2003, Microsoft has been offering a free download of an application called Word Viewer that allows users to open documents created with Microsoft Word on Windows-based computers that don’t have Office installed.
The caveat here is that you have to download to different installers. The first one installs Word Viewer 2003 and the second installs the Office Compatibility Pack. This second download is what allows Word Viewer to open documents created with Word 2007.
In this walkthrough, I’ve created a test.docx file and sent it to a bare bones Windows XP installation. Let’s have a look at how I was able to view it.
For starters, here is what happens when I try to open test.docx without having any viewer installed:
Doesn’t really give you a warm and friendly feeling, does it? No worries, open up a web browser and download the Word Viewer from the Microsoft Download Center.
After the download completes, click the Run button or double-click the downloaded file. In Windows XP you will see the following warning:
Click Run and then follow through the wizard. I used the default settings for this example.
Eventually you should see the “Installation Complete” prompt.
After clicking the Ok button, Word Viewer will launch and attempt to open a document.
If you want to save yourself some time and energy, you can grab the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack from the Microsoft Download Center and install it before launching the Word Viewer for the first time. If you don’t want to be proactive, Word Viewer will prompt you to download it when you try to open your first .docx file.
Clicking Ok will open up a browser and take you to the download page.
Just like the first install, this one is very straight forward. After skipping past the security warning, follow the on-screen prompts for a swift installation.
Once you complete this installation, open Word Viewer again. Notice anything different?
The icon is now displayed as the Microsoft Word document icon.
Here is a side by side comparison of the file open in Word 2007 (on the left) and Word Viewer (on the right).
Looks perfect to me!
Even though the icon updated when opening a file from Word Viewer, the icon on my desktop didn’t update until I rebooted the system. It’s also good to note that you can now just double-click a .docx (or .doc) file and Word Viewer will automatically open it.
What viewer do you use for .docx files?