Microsoft Word 2013 – Save Documents in Different File Formats – Level: Beginner

One of the most common trouble calls I have received is from people who are trying to share a Microsoft Word document with others, and the recipients can’t open the document because they don’t have the same version of MS Word, or, heaven forbid, some other word processor entirely!

To begin, follow these steps to see what I mean:

#1 Open Microsoft Word 2013, then open a document or create a new one.

#2 From the menu select File\Save As…

#3 Select COMPUTER as a destination, then select the Documents folder in the right-hand pane.

Once you get that far, you will see something like this next screenshot. This screenshot was taken on my Windows 8.1 computer. Your view may be slightly different.

Word 2013 default file type

The default file type is “Word Document (*.docx).” That means the document will be in the latest Microsoft Word file format. No problem sharing with others who also have Word 2013, but what if someone has the ancient and venerable Microsoft Word 2003? Word 2003 uses a file type that ends with .DOC. It doesn’t know anything about files that end with .DOCX.

To solve that problem and enable your intended recipient to read and edit your document, click the Save As Type drop-down box and select “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc).” When you click the SAVE button you will then have a Word document that uses the .DOC file extension. People with Word 97 or 2003 will be able to edit this document.

Word 2013 available file types

Notice you now have TWO copies of your document, one with a .DOCX and another with a .DOC file extension. Be aware you know which is which as you edit them in the future!


OK, here’s a brief digression about file types. Have you ever wondered how your computer knows to open Word documents in Microsoft Word, PDF files in Adobe Reader, or text documents in Notepad? Mainly it’s done with file extensions. These are generally three or four letter extensions at the end of the main part of a file’s name. Windows looks at the file when you double-click it and notices the file extension, then opens the program that’s configured to use that specific file extension.

You might have a file named DENNIS.TXT. Notice the .TXT file ending. That’s what tells Windows to use Notepad when you open this kind of file. You could have a DENNIS.DOCX file, which would open in (depending the version of MS Word you have installed) Microsoft Word 2007 thru 2013. A file named DENNIS.PDF would be opened in your default PDF reader, often Adobe Reader – which is free.

Here is a list of many file extensions and the programs with which they are associated.

Another common trouble call I receive is a favourite Word or Excel document no longer opens in Word or Excel! The very first thing I check is the file extension. Likely someone has inadvertently changed the filename from something like DENNIS.XLSX TO DENNIS. Notice what they did there; the file extension is gone, which means Windows doesn’t know what program to use when opening that file!

The cure here is simple: rename the file by giving it the correct file extention. It becomes DENNIS.XLSX once again, and opens in Microsoft Excel with no problems.

Dennis Strain
Enclave Managed Networks
Box 365, Smithers, BC, Canada V0J 2N0
877-877-8793 toll free phone & fax

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