Did anyone ever send you a file in .DOCX format? Or one in .XLSX format or .PPTX format? These are new file formats introduced in Microsoft Office 2007. Of course, opening such a file is trivial if you use Office 2007, but most people do not. Most computer users rely on older versions of Microsoft Office or on word processors made by other software companies. Trying to open a .DOCX or .XLSX or .PPTX was impossible for most people. However, you now have options.
All operating systems:
The easiest and perhaps the best option is to use either the free Google Documents program or the free Zoho Docs program. Both of these are web-based applications that require no installation at all. Both are available online within a few seconds, and both are easy to use. You can quickly and easily open a .DOCX or an .XLSX spreadsheet in either of these applications, then select “Save As...” to save in .DOC, .XLS, or some other format you prefer. Once saved in .DOC or .XLS format, you can then download the file and use it in your normal word processor or spreadsheet program. Google Docs is the more popular service at http://docs.google.com although I prefer Zoho Docs at http://www.zoho.com. Zoho Docs has a few more features and capabilities than does Google Docs. Both are available free of charge. Both work well with Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and other modern operating systems.
Next, several competitive word processors and office suites can open the new file formats. The most popular is OpenOffice.org, a free suite of office programs. The newer versions of OpenOffice.org will read and write the new Microsoft formats. Best of all, OpenOffice is free and is available for Windows, Macintosh, and most Linux platforms. OpenOffice.org is a large download at 100 to 175 megabytes (depending upon which operating system version you need), but it does offer a lot of functionality. In fact, if you are in the market for a new word processing, spreadsheet, or presentation program, this might be a good choice for you. Details may be found at http://www.OpenOffice.org.
Windows users only:
I will describe my least favorite solution, but one that is probably the most popular. Microsoft provides a free "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats." The Compatibility Pack adds the new file formats to Office 2003. On the downside, it is a huge download at more than 27 megabytes and provides another bloated piece of software on your Windows hard drive. It also is a solution only for anyone who is using Office 2003.
Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack works with Microsoft Office 2003 installed on Windows 2000 (Service Pack 4), Windows XP (Service Pack 2 or higher), or Windows Vista. Anyone using Macintosh, Linux, or an older version of Windows is left out. Any Windows user who uses an older version of Office is also left out. (My favorite version is Microsoft Office 97, the last fast, unbloated version.)
The free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack can be downloaded at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=941b3470-3ae9-4aee-8f43-c6bb74cd1466&displaylang=en.
Macintosh users only:
Macintosh users can use OpenOffice.org, as described earlier. However, I suspect that most Macintosh users will prefer to use NeoOffice, a modified version of OpenOffice.org that is tailored for the Macintosh user interface. I write most all of my newsletter articles, including this one, and most other documents in NeoOffice. NeoOffice is a great word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation program. Newer versions of NeoOffice will read and write the latest Microsoft formats. NeoOffice for Macintosh is available free of charge. For details, go to http://www.neooffice.org.
Of course, Macintosh users also can purchase Microsoft Office 2008 for Macintosh for prices that range from about $150 to more than $400, depending upon which options are included. This is the Macintosh version of Microsoft Office, and the latest version of Microsoft Office for Macintosh does fully support the latest Microsoft file formats.
You no longer need to be stymied when someone sends you a .DOCS, .XLSX, or a .PPTX file. Probably the fastest method of converting it is to go to Google Docs or to Zoho Docs. However, if you expect to receive a lot of new format files, you might prefer to install one of the other programs described above.
Whatever solution you choose, you do have options.