What is a .DOCX file?

DOCX is the standard file format for saving documents in Word. If you’re more at home on a Mac than a PC, however, you can also use DOCX on applications such as Pages, Google Docs or Open Office.

It marks a departure from Microsoft’s predecessor, the DOC format, which saved data as a single binary file. Instead, DOCX stores XML (extendible mark-up language) information in three folders — Word, docProps and _rels — compressed as a ZIP file. This makes the DOCX accessible on different programmes.

What does .DOCX stand for?

DOCX is a term that blends DOC and XML together— nodding to the earlier format, as well as the new and improved XML mark-up language. It is sometimes called Open Office XML or OOXML.

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History of the .DOCX file.

Microsoft launched the DOCX file with Office 2007. Prior to this, its closed-source DOC format had a number of accessibility issues and limitations. What’s more, after Microsoft released the DOC format specifications, it allowed competitor programmes to reverse-engineer the software.

To address this, DOCX was created to make lighter, smaller files with better image quality and accessibility. At first, the release was met with scepticism, as the flashy new file type wasn’t compatible with older versions of Word. In fact, some DOC format purists continued to save their work using the traditional .doc extension for years to come.

Over time however, the DOCX won out. Today, DOCX is the standard file for everyday Word documents and is read on a number of competitor programmes too. By contrast, DOC has now fallen firmly behind in terms of its popularity and capabilities.

What are .DOCX files used for?

DOCX have a number of useful functions for word processing, images and more. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Word processing.

The primary function of a DOCX file is word processing. You’ll probably use these files throughout your academic and professional career, as well as on your home computer. You can use DOCX to generate and edit text for a very wide range of purposes - from newsletters and articles, to creating flyers, invitations and other documentation.

Images, video and rich media.

Unlike the earlier DOC format, DOCX can store and display rich media, creative formatting, video and images with impressive results. These are stored as separate files within the DOCX.

Storing additional data.

DOCX can also store additional data within its files. This could include authorship details, page formatting and review notes.

Discover more file types today.

Pros and cons of .DOCX files.


  • Smaller file size. .DOCX files are much smaller in comparison to their older counterparts (.DOC). This smaller file size means that .DOCX files take up less space on hard-drives and are much quicker to transfer between devices.
  • Better image/media quality. DOCX files are better at handling compressed images, videos and other media than DOC. If you’re embedding a video, image or infographic to your document, it should maintain a solid resolution.
  • Less chance of corruption. DOCX are less likely to corrupt. This is good news if you need to email, zip, transfer or upload your files for different users.
  • Widely supported. Aside from Word, you can also open DOCX files on Google Docs, OpenOffice, Pages and more.


  • Not supported on older versions of Microsoft Word. If you’re using an edition of Microsoft Word that’s older than 2007, you won’t be able to open a .DOCX.
  • Subscription only. Like Microsoft Word, you’ll need to pay to use DOCX files. There is a limited free version available.

How to open a .DOCX file.

There are a number of ways you can open a DOCX file.

To open a DOCX file on Microsoft Word:

  1. Open Word.
  2. Click File>Open
  3. Select your DOCX file from your saved files or desktop.

Finally, here’s how you can open a DOCX file on Pages.

  1. Open Pages on your Apple device.
  2. Drag your DOCX file to the Pages icon in your dock.

Alternatively, you can right-click your DOCX file and select Open with>Pages.

Adobe Acrobat DC can be used to open and view .docx files, however, it may not be able to preserve the formatting of the original file. To open a .docx file in Adobe Acrobat DC, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Adobe Acrobat DC
  2. Click File in the top left corner
  3. Select Open
  4. Choose the .docx file you want to open
  5. Click Open.

Alternatively, you can convert the .DOCX file to PDF format, which can be opened and viewed in Adobe Acrobat DC without any formatting issues. To convert the .DOCX file to PDF, follow these steps:

  1. Launch Adobe Acrobat DC
  2. Click File in the top left corner
  3. Select Create PDF
  4. Choose the .DOCXdocx file you want to convert
  5. Click Create.

The newly created PDF file will now be accessible and can be opened in Adobe Acrobat DC.

How to create and edit a .DOCX file.

If you have a post-2007 version of Microsoft Word, you can create and edit a DOCX file simply by selecting File>Home and clicking the Blank document icon on the right-hand menu.

However, for some non-Microsoft programmes, the process might be slightly more complex.

  • For Google Docs, you can create a DOCX file by saving and downloading your Google Docs file as a DOCX file. You can then re-upload it as a DOCX to make edits.
  • On Pages, open your document and select File>Export to>Word. From there, you can open your document as a DOCX file.

How to convert a .DOCX to PDF

You can convert your DOCX file to a PDF with Adobe Acrobat Online. Simply drag your Word document into the handy converter and let it do the hard work for you. From there, you can easily save your file as a PDF and share it.

What’s the difference between a .DOCX and a ._DOCX file?

Some email programmes change .DOCX file names to ._DOCX. Generally, this is to ensure certain files are accessible after they’ve been transferred to new users. In practice, .DOCX and ._DOCX files are largely the same as one another.

How to open a _DOCX file.

If this is the case with your document, you may need to re-name the file’s extension to .DOCX before you can open it. Afterwards, you should then be able to view and edit it as normal using Microsoft Word or another compatible programme.

Learn more about similar file types to .DOCX


Discover more about one of the most commonly used classic word processing file types with our guide.


OpenDocument Text files (ODTs) are the opensource equivalent to DOCX. They have similar functionality and XML language and are easily accessible on a wide range of programmes.


With a PDF, anyone can view and print your document, regardless of what application you used to create it. Find out more.


The simplest document format, readable on all operating systems and programmes. They contain sequences of characters only, with no code information for fonts, colours or style.

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What’s the difference between a .DOC and a .DOCX file?

DOC files were the original Microsoft Word format, before they were upgraded to DOCX for Word 2007. All subsequent Microsoft Word documents are compatible with both file types, but DOCX is much smaller and less likely to become corrupted. While it may be unlikely, one benefit of DOC is that it allows you to work with much older files.

Is DOCX the same as Word?

As of 2007, DOCX is the standard document file format for Microsoft Word. Most Word document files will save automatically with the .DOCX file extension. Prior to this, documents would save with the .DOC extension.

Why can’t I open a DOCX file?

There are a number of reasons why you might not be able to open a DOCX file on your device. If you have low disc space, you may struggle to open larger documents. Sometimes, your device may not open a corrupt DOCX file. You may also not have permission to open the document.

How do I open a DOCX file for free?

You can open DOCX files on a number of free applications, including Open Office and Google Docs. You can also open DOCX files on Microsoft Word online, though this is a more limited service than the full software. Alternatively, you can convert to PDF for free, using Adobe’s free conversion tool.