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DOCX and DOC: What’s the difference?

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For the most part of its lifetime, the Microsoft Office Word had been represented by a single proprietary format in the form of DOC. But this changed way back in in 2007 when the Microsoft Office Suite, involving Word, went through a dramatic overhaul which affected the way we do writing with a computer. 

In the year 2007, the “DOCX” format was born. While it may appear no less different from “doc” as only differentiated by a single letter that is “X,” “DOC” and “DOCX” have major disparity which makes one starkly different from the other.

The added letter “X” was not just a mere concatenation to DOC in order to signify a newer version—or in another way of looking about it, an “extreme” version”—of the original format. It actually has a more substantial meaning. The “X” in DOCX, as it appears, meant to symbolize the so-called “Office Open XML” standards. By essence, the DOCX format is more efficient and creates smaller but less corruptible space than DOC.

Although not necessarily obsolete given that even recent iterations of Microsoft Word still uses the standard DOC format when giving an option to make a copy of a particular Word document, the only people who would actually consider opting for this kind of formatting are those who use a version of Word that is older than the 2007 edition. This is simply because any pre-2007 version of Word is incomprehensible of the DOCX file format.

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A Look into the History of the DOC Format

The DOC proprietary format is now over 3 decades’ old which parallels the birth of the first Word program for the MS-DOS. Since its inception until only 2006, Microsoft Word’s proprietary format had been relatively obscure to the industry, possibly as a means of Microsoft securing its line of business in the then-booming computer industry.

Prior to Microsoft’s revelation of the DOC’s specification which subsequently resulted to it getting reverse-engineered, there had been a few attempts to make the DOC format work with other applications apart from the use of the Microsoft Office Word. During the 90’s and early 2000’s, the efforts had resulted to some success, they did not necessarily completely mimic the Word’s full functionality, particularly with regards to taking advantage of the application’s exotic formatting options.

At the time, the Microsoft Office and Word were the trendsetters in the office setting which only further solidified the company’s grasp in its own market, even beating existing competition like Corel’s WordPerfect.

Although Microsoft may seem mighty generous by choosing to disclose the DOC format specification many times since 2008, in reality, there are things about the disclosure that the company deliberately left undocumented which thus make any attempt at a total reverse-engineering of “doc” quite impossible.

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The Entry of the Open Office XML DOCX Format

The DOC format had been doing relatively fine in the document processing space for a long while. But with the rise of the free, open-source platforms like the OpenOffice, Microsoft was under threat in one of its money-making products. To level up their playing field, Microsoft decided to expand on the open standard which culminated to the “DOCX” file format as we know it.

This supposed upgrade did not only affected the Word program but also the rest of the Office Suites as made apparent with the adoption of the letter “X”—signifying the Extensible Markup Language or XML—to the pre-existing formats of all the programs; for example, PPTX from the original PPT and XLSX from the original XLS format.

As previously mentioned, the end result with the incorporation of XML with the Office Suite programs led to file outputs that do not only produce smaller file sizes, they are also more durable against getting corrupted, too. Furthermore, for programs in the suite which make use of images, compressed pictures appear significantly good-looking than when applied in the older format.

For the early adopters of the Microsoft Office Word, the 2007 version may appear to be a gimmick for the company to make a profit given the 2003’s solid reputation as a polished clerical tool in the office. But, while the drive for the development of Word 2007 may indeed be money-oriented, there is truly something revolutionary that took place with the 2007 version that inevitably paved its way to modern home or office areas.

So, which one is better between the DOC and DOCX word file format?

Hands down, the DOCX format is an altogether better format than the original DOC. Not only does it produce a more desirable output, but the expanded nature of the XML as incorporated with the office program offered more possibilities that we simply won’t see by looking back on the old format.

The only reason you should ever consider opening a DOC file is when you’re trying to open some decades’ old document that would otherwise pose an issue when opened with any of the recent iterations of the Microsoft Office Word software.

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