What is the difference between DOC and DOCX file types?

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If you’re an avid user of Microsoft’s proprietary Microsoft Word application, then you should be familiar with its popular DOC and DOCX file formats. Seemingly similar to each other yet different in reality, both appear to do the same thing – help Microsoft Word users save their word documents. But what exactly sets each apart and which one should you commit to? We’ve got all the answers you need lined up in this article.

First, A brief exposé on file systems

A file system can be likened to a package used to store important information. Think of it as a bottle used to store liquid, it allows for easy access, storage, and retrieval of the ‘packed’ information without any loss in its integrity. The DOC file type was one of Microsoft’s earlier versions of such digital packages. It was introduced in the 1990s along with the very first iterations of the Microsoft Word software.

In 2007, Microsoft updated this longstanding file type from DOC to DOCX, although backward compatibility was retained, the company had effectively kick-started a move to sidetrack the DOC file system. 

DOCX is a faster to use and more compact file system

Compared to the DOC file type, DOCX is not only faster to open and save but also incredibly compact. An MS Word file saved as DOCX uses 80% less space than the same file saved in the DOC format. This is primarily because Microsoft based the DOCX file system on an extensible markup language instead of the former less efficient binary system associated with the DOC file type.

DOCX is more compatible too

Since DOCX was developed using the open source XML markup language, in its essential form, it can be considered to be a ZIP file, famous for their ease of usage and broad range compatibility. This essential trait allows a long list of third-party applications to create (and indeed read) word documents with relative ease.

The DOC format, on the other hand, was developed as a proprietary file system, and that categorization meant that only Microsoft had the blueprint required to develop software that could manipulate DOC word documents. This invariably created a closed ecosystem where MS Word files were shared and opened less frequently than would have been the case if the files were of the DOCX format

Finally, DOCX is harder to break and easier to fix

The binary-based DOC format had one additional and perhaps more telling shortcoming; it was incredibly easy to corrupt. A single break in structure or data alteration at any point in the continuous binary system was enough to render the whole document invalid. Worse still, such a break was very hard, if not impossible to fix. DOCX on the other debuted with a flexible and easily configurable architecture that demonstrates a fair bit of resilience against data corruption.

From all this, it’s easy to see that the DOCX format is the more efficient MS word file format to use. While current MS Word applications allow you to save and open DOC type files, you’re better off sticking with DOCX – it’s simply smaller, better, safer and ultimately easier to use.

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