DOC and DOCX are Microsoft Word file formats. Introduced with Word 2007, DOCX uses the Open XML file format that creates files based on XML. While DOCX has many features that would deem it superior, there are reasons to occasionally use the older DOC format.
The DOCX format automatically compresses when you close the file, resulting in a file that can be as much as 75 percent smaller than an identical DOC file. Because of this smaller file size, DOCX files are easier to store, transfer, and email -- and yet they require nothing more to decompress than a word processing program that can open them.
Anyone with Microsoft Office 2007 or higher can open and edit DOCX files without incident, including Office 2008 for the Mac. In addition, the most recent editions of OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice -- open-source office alternatives -- are able to open files in DOCX. However, if you frequently have to share documents with people who do not have a newer edition of Word, or if you want to ensure the maximum amount of compatibility, DOC may be a simpler solution.
Document Inspector is a program built into Office 2007 and later that allows you to go through your DOCX file and find any hidden information that may have been stored. Some of this data includes personal information stored in your Office program, hidden text, revision changes and document headers. This information can be removed to make sure that you don't accidentally reveal personal and sensitive data to whomever picks up your document.
DOCX files are easier to recover than the old DOC format. Because the format stores data into modules, one element of the file being corrupt or broken does not prevent the rest of your file from being accessible.
If you're looking to upgrade from the older DOC format but aren't sold on DOCX, another alternative is ODT, the OpenDocument text format. ODF is an alternative to the Open XML format that's supported in Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice, Google Documents and most other word processing programs. However, not all Microsoft Office features translate properly into the ODF format.
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