mswordLast post, we talked about how to save a docx file in an older file format (*.doc or *.pdf) so that you could open it on an older computer. This is one solution to the problem of what to do if you have a newer version of Microsoft Office or Word at home than you do at school.

But what if you’re at school, sitting at an old computer, and you need to open a docx file right now? Well, you’re not out of luck. There are some solutions.

Upload It to Google Drive and Open It

Let’s assume you have a Google account. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

If you do, then you can  upload the fancy docx file into your Google Drive. From there, you should be able to open the file up in your browser and print it out.

Upload to Google Drive

The upload button is located next to the “Create” button. Once you click it, choose “Files” and select the Word Document (.docx) that you’re trying to open.

You may see a dialog box after selecting the file. Depending on your settings, Google may ask you if you want to convert the file to “the corresponding Google docs format.”

If you say yes, Google will attempt to convert that .docx into a native Google docs file so that you can edit it directly in Google Drive. This works fine with simple documents, but it can sometimes lead to messed up formatting for more complex ones. If all you’re doing is printing, you may want to leave it alone; if you need to edit the file, though, try converting it and see what happens.

Convert Docx File

When it’s done, it’ll appear on your drive. Click the name of the file to open it.

A Docx FileThis will open the file up in a new tab. If you converted the file, you’ll be able to edit it. In this case, I didn’t, so it will just open up as a preview. But I’ll be able to view it and print it just fine.

Opened Docx File

Send It To Your GMail Account

If you have a docx file attached to an e-mail in your GMail account, you can also open it directly from there. It will open up a preview window with a read-only file, just like if you had opened the document up in your Google Drive.

But why? There’s not really much reason to send a document to yourself via e-mail. You could easily have uploaded it to your drive and accomplished the same thing.

But what if someone else sent you a docx file…? Now there’s a reason to open it up in GMail. Otherwise, you’d have to download it, upload it to your Drive, and then open it. Extra steps for no reason.

So, let’s say you just received an e-mail. You open up your e-mail, and there’s an attachment. You may have to wait a moment for Google to scan that attachment and make sure it’s not a virus.

Once it’s done, you’ll see two options: “View” and “Download.” Click on “View” and it will open up a new tab viewing that document. It will open up as if you had uploaded the document to Google Drive and not converted it to a native Google Docs format. So, you won’t be able to edit anything… but again, you can print it out.

View in Gmail

Other Solutions

This post is getting a bit long, so I’m not going to get into much detail with these other ideas. Google Drive or GMail should get the job done. But, if you don’t have a Google account, you have some other options.

Use Portable Apps. You can install portable apps on a flash drive, and then download the portable version of Open Office. This is a complex topic for another day. But, the quick version is that this will let you run software without installing it on the computer – which you may not be able to do because of the security protocols on the school computers.

Use An Online Conversion Service. There are a lot of websites that will convert files for you. Usually you upload the file, wait a few minutes, and you receive the converted file in an e-mail. Your mileage may vary, but Zamzar is an old standby that I have used before. Again, I’ll explain this in more detail another day.

Get Your School to Upgrade. Really, why is a school still using Windows XP and Office 2003? It is 2012, after all. But, alas, institutions move slowly. We can hope, anyway.