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.doc or .docx – which file format is better?

Which of the two file formats is better and why? Which one should be chosen to save documents that are intended to be sent to other recipients?

Where did doc files come from?

In the first operating systems, .doc extension was initially used for all types of text files but doc files known today, have been present since 1983. This file extension was applied by Microsoft for saving text documents in Microsoft Word with the format reserved by the company. The files became popular quickly thanks to their possibility of containing plenty of information regarding formatting, and have become the global standard.

Why software supplied by other producers will not always handle the doc file format?

The problem with using doc files in other types of software originates from the very restrictive license and no public specification. This was the reason why in many cases certain software that supported the file format and was able to open doc files in a legible form but caused loss of data when re-saving.

How was docx created and how is it different from doc?

The doc file format was developed uninterruptedly throughout the years and nobody anticipated that this would suddenly change. A breakthrough took place along with the release of Microsoft Word 2003. The default new format, docx, foreshadowed the end of a closed policy of the company with regard to files generated by MS Office components.

The new format of files, named Office Open XML, was based on XML language. From the point of its application as the default Word file format, docx was developed as an open text document standard so that many other producers could open and edit such docx documents.

Not a warm welcome – the problems with docx

Initially, docx was not enthusiastically received by users because people working with older Word versions could not open files created with the version from 2003. This was the reason why many people, even those using the latest MS Office package, still used the doc format, as they were concerned with the compatibility of the file with software used by others.

The number of programmes that could now exchange files with Microsoft applications increased significantly. New formats, such as docx, xlsx or pptx quickly became the broadly-used solutions, regaining the status of being the standard, with their documentation being officially provided to the public.

Which file format should be used in translation and not only

Not many people use Word older than 2003 nowadays so it seems that doc is slowly starting to be forgotten, however there are still many people who save their documents in doc format because “it is easier to open”.

It is worth remembering that not all users work with Microsoft software and more often documents are edited in open source programmes, such as LibreOffice and OpenOffice, which handle docx significantly better than doc.

Besides, specialised software used broadly in the translation industry enables to edit open and systemized docx files in a more effective way. It ensures bigger consistency of formatting of the source and translation files. This means that less time is spent on correcting the document’s appearance, and consequently there is a lower risk of errors and losing parts of text.

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