Can’t read Word Files

Dear Computer Lady,

I cannot open attachments in word form.  When I open the attachment all I get is a bunch of odd printing. 

Can you tell me how to correct this?

Thank you,    John in California


Dear John,

I guess my first question would be, “Do you have Word installed on your computer?”

If you do have Word installed on your computer, what version of Word do you have?

If you don’t have Word installed on your computer, you need to either have Word, or another program that can open and read Word (.doc) files installed. You can either head over to your local computer and/or office store (Staples is a great place to start) and purchase Word, or you can download and install Open Office which is a free office program that has the ability to open Word files.

If all you want to do is read the files, you can download the free Word Viewer from the Microsoft Website.

If you do have Word installed on your computer, we would need to figure out why it is not opening other Word files correctly. Since you have said that the attachments are in Word form, I am assuming that they end with the .doc file ending.

If the attachments you are trying to open end with the newer .docx file ending, it was created in Word 2007 or Word 2010. If your version of Word is older than 2007, you would not be able to open the newer file type. You can either ask the person sending you the attachments to save them in the original .doc format, or download the Word Viewer to be able to view those files.


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    • Ruby
    • November 12, 2010

    Another suggestion for converting files: I have used the free online document conversion site at
    You need to save the document you received to your computer. Then go to and follow the upload/conversion instructions. This site will do the conversion and email you a link to the document in a few minutes.
    Depending upon the sensitivity (secret-ness) of your document, you will need to decide if you don’t mind an online site “seeing” your document info.
    Ruby in FL

    • Nonnie
    • November 12, 2010

    I think Microsoft still offers a patch for early Word versions that will open the .docx. It will open the .docx but you might lose any advanced formatting or macros – usually not a problem with general correspondence. You can’t save as a .docx – you will save it as a regular .doc.

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