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Office 2011 for Mac: Compatibility among Word File Formats

You have Word 2011, but remember, not everyone else does. At times, you may need to save your Office 2011 files in a format that people with other software can open. Knowing the software capabilities of the people you’re communicating with helps you choose the most appropriate format. Fortunately, almost every word processor can use certain file formats.

The Word 2011 default format files have an x at the end of the filename to signify that they’re eXtensible Markup Language (XML) documents.

Here's a rundown on the various extensions you find in the Save As dialog:

Extension Description
Word Document
(.docx)
This is Word 2011's default, regular format. It’s the international standard format for word processing documents, also known as standard open XML format. This format is fully compatible with Word 2008 (Mac), Word 2007 (Windows), and Word 2010 (Windows). OpenOffice, NeoOffice, Lotus Notes, and Apple Pages (part of iWork) can open these documents, but their conversion process changes how documents look and work. SkyDrive, Google Docs, and Docs.com display these documents well, but they have minimal editing capabilities.
Word Template
(.dotx)
Same compatibility benefits and issues as explained for Word Document (DOCX).
PDF, Portable Document Format
(
.pdf)
The PDF format is a great way to distribute a Word document when you want the recipient to be able to view and print your document just the way you saved it.
Word Macro-Enabled Document
(.docm)
This file format is supported for Word 2003 through 2011, both Mac and PC, except Word 2008 (Mac). The macros contained in these documents must be written properly in order to work on all platforms.
Word Macro-Enabled Template
(.dotm)
Same compatibility characteristics as Word Macro-Enabled Document (DOCM).
Word 97-2004 Document
(.doc)
All versions of Microsoft Office from 97 to 2011 for both Mac and Windows can open this format, but new 2007 and later features aren’t supported fully.
Word Document Stationery
(.doc)
When you choose Word Document Stationery in Word’s Save As dialog, your document is saved as a Stationery file in Word 97-2004 file format. This is the same as using Finder’s Get Info command to turn a document into a Mac OS X Stationery template.
Word 97-2004 Template
(.dot)
Same compatibility as Word 97-2004 (DOC).
Rich Text Format
(.rtf)
This is the best choice to use when you want to cover the widest possible audience. Although RTF isn’t a formal standard, most word processors do a decent job of working with this format. Do remember, though, that after you save to the RTF format, you lose the editing ability for Word-specific features, such as WordArt, Picture Styles, and so on.
Word 4.0-6.0/95 Compatible
(.rtf)
This RTF variant has support for specific features of Microsoft Word versions 4, 6, and 95. Use this format if you know your recipient is using one of these older versions of Microsoft Word, either Mac or Windows.
Plain Text
(.txt)
Saves only the text portion of the Word document. Everything else is discarded.
Web Page
(.htm)
Turns your Word document into a Web page (HTML) document and also creates a supporting folder of linked objects, such as pictures or movies. Web browsers, such as Safari and Firefox, can open the result.
Single File Web Page
(.mht)
Similar to Web Page (HTM), Single File Web Page creates a single file also known as a Web archive. Web browsers, such as Safari and Firefox, can open the result.
Word 2003 XML Document
(.xml)
Creates an XML document without compressing it, specifically for Word 2003.
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