Last time, at Computer Repair Vancouver, we spent some time talking about file extensions. We noted that within any modern day operating system, including Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX, a file’s name consists of three different parts. First is the name of the file itself. Second is a dot. Third is a file extension. It is this file extension that specifies the type of file it is and helps your computer understand what programs it should be associated with

In general, particular file types and their associated file extensions become popular, and are consequently seen over and over again. You have likely witnessed hundreds of PDF’s (a special text and graphics file which can be opened by Adobe Reader) and JPEG’s (a special graphics file which can be read by a wide range of graphics applications). Then there are the old Microsoft Office mainstays: DOC (a Microsoft Word document), XLS (a Microsoft Excel document), and PPT (a Microsoft PowerPoint document). We here at Computer Repair Vancouver have dealt with hundreds of these files over the years.

Now any version of Microsoft Office (the software suite which consists of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) can open files with the extensions: DOC, XLS, and PPT. Unfortunately, a few years back Microsoft decided to come up with a new set of file formats; their respective file extensions being: DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX. The unfortunate part is that these types of documents can not be opened by any Office products prior to 2007. However, since this is the new direction that Microsoft is moving in you are going to have to adapt whether you own an older version of Office or no version at all.

How to deal with X files if you own an older version of Office

If you own an older version of Microsoft Office then Computer Repair Vancouver recommends that you head on over to Microsoft’s site and download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. What is this compatibility pack, you may be asking? Well, it is a free upgrade for Office 2000, Office 2003, and Office XP that allows you to open and save DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX files as if you owned a newer version of the suite.

Follow these simple steps to upgrade your copy

  1. Perform a Windows Update.
  2. Download and install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack (use the link above).
  3. Done! You can now open and save X files ( DOCX, XLSX, PPTX).

How to deal with X files if you don’t own any version of Office

If you do not own any versions of Microsoft Office then Computer Repair Vancouver recommends one of four options

  1. Sign up for a Gmail accountand then head on over to Google Docs. Google Docs is a free, online file service which allows you to upload files, modify them online, and then save them back to your computer. The great thing about the service is that it allows you to open a whole host of Microsoft Office files (including DOCX, XLSX, and PPT – note it can’t open PPTX). The only disadvantages are that you must be online in order to make use of it and your files are stored on Google’s servers (which is fine as long as your files aren’t overly sensitive).
  2. Download a free production suite such as OpenOffice. OpenOffice is very similar to Microsoft Office; the only downside is that you will have to learn to use it. This is a good option if you are going to be dealing with, and modifying, X files regularly.
  3. Download Word Viewer, Excel Viewer, or PowerPoint Viewer for free. These programs allow you to open and print Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files respectively. Unfortunately, you can not create your own files or modify files someone else has given you.
  4. Head online and use a free file conversion tool such as zamzar. This particular website allows you to upload a file, convert it to any number of other file formats, and then email it to yourself. So, for example, you could convert a DOCX file to RTF or TXT (two formats which can be read using WordPad or Notepad). The great thing about this website is that you don’t have to install any software onto your computer at all. The only problem is that it can be slow and cumbersome to use on a continual basis.

As you can see there are many different free ways to convert a file. In all honesty, the hardest part is generally determining what particular type of file you are dealing with and what particular type of file you want to deal with (what your computer can handle). If you do run across any strange file extensions, whose origin you are unsure of, feel free to let us here at Computer Repair Vancouver know.