Friday, July 17, 2009

I don't know how to open .docx files.

Technology seems to be the issue of the week. Three separate clients have sent me electronic documents this week with the suffix .docx, which is a format Microsoft introduced as part of the Microsoft Office 2007 suite.

This format is not compatible with earlier Microsoft Office programs, nor with the Mac OSX system, which is what my computer runs. I've just found this website, which offers to convert any document I send them by mail -- but my clients pay me for discretion, among other things, and I'm damned if I'm going to email a stranger a draft of Congressional testimony or an unpublished manuscript.

Anyone have any better suggestions for a workaround? I do NOT want to have to buy Microsoft Office 2007 just to address this, when the Microsoft Office 2004 I already own does everything else I need it to do.

I just finished an egregiously bad debut thriller, coming out next month; I'm not going to shame the author by naming it, but I will say that in the tradition of The Da Vinci Code, it managed to bore me and insult my intelligence. What upsets me is that the book seems to have tremendous publisher support, and I fully expect it to hit the bestseller lists -- when far more entertaining and intelligent books don't get the support or attention they need to find the audiences they deserve.

But that's a discussion for another day, and in the meantime, here's a happier list of

Good Books I've Read Lately

Tim Maleeny, JUMP. An old-fashioned mystery in the very best sense of that word. Sam McGowan has barely retired from the San Francisco police department when he's confronted with a mysterious death in his own apartment building: his much-loathed landlord, who fell (or was pushed) from the roof. Tim is a nice guy and an excellent writer, and getting great support from his publishers at Poisoned Pen, who told me they see him as an heir to Donald E. Westlake. Based on the sheer enjoyment value of this book, that doesn't feel like an exaggeration.

Luis Alberto Urrea, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH. A gorgeous book that really, really needs to be made into a movie. Nayeli lives in a nearly-forgotten Sinaloan village, which is invaded by corrupt police and drug dealers. After a screening of The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli and her friends realize that this is what they need to do: go north to the U.S. in order to bring home seven strong men to save the village. Among them, Nayeli hopes, will be her own lost father. What follows is an adventure that is both better and worse than Nayeli could have imagined, and simultaneously heartbreaking and triumphant. I finished it wishing it had been at least 50 pages longer, because I wasn't ready to let the characters go.

Karen Olson, THE MISSING INK. This is cheating a little, because Karen's a friend, and I actually read this book in manuscript a year ago. But it's just in bookstores now, and it's perfect summer reading. It introduces tattoo artist Brett Kavanaugh, who runs her own custom design shop in Las Vegas. A young woman comes in and asks for a special tattoo -- the name of her fiance -- but then she disappears. Curiosity leads Brett down a trail that includes an Elvis karaoke bar, a mysterious Englishman, and a close encounter with a dead body. Brett and her friends are great fun; I've already read the forthcoming sequel, PRETTY IN INK, and am delighted that this series has just gotten picked up for another two books.

John Connolly, THE GATES. John's a friend too, but I'd say this anyway: this is the best book I've read so far this year. It's a joyful, funny, scary novel for young adults that pays homage to just about every one of my own childhood favorites, from The Wind in the Willows to The Phantom Tollbooth to The Wizard of Oz. Out for an early Halloween walk one night, young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, see the neighbors conducting a ritual that accidentally opens the gates of Hell -- just a little, enough for the Large Hadron Collider to start sending energy across the multiverse in a way that can't be good for human beings. It'll be out in the U.S in October, just in time for everyone's Halloween reading.


Karen Olson said...

I couldn't open the docx documents, either, but there's a free download available that will give you what you need to open them. Can't tell you just where. I had to do it on my office PC, and can't imagine you can't do it for a Mac.

Also, you can ask your clients to just convert the files to .doc for you. I have Word 2008 for Mac and it's really easy to do.

RobinH said...

There's a freeware program Docx2Rtf that's supposed to be able to do this. I haven't tried it, but you can download it here (you have to scroll down to get to the download link.)

Anonymous said...

asking your clients to send the document as a .doc is definitely the easiest thing to do. I automatically save all my documents as .doc instead of .docx because there are so many people who can't open it.


Anna said...

Forward them to me and I'll convert them for you!

eviljwinter said...

Microsoft offers a compatibility pack for Office 2007 on XP. I don't know if this goes over to the OSX version, but I would have to imagine it does. Essentially, it's a plugin that lets older versions recognize the new file formats.

.docx, xlsx, and pptx are Microsoft's way of saying, "Google scares the living bejesus out of us!"

Claire said...

No advice regarding your question, sadly. But I'm glad to hear about John Connolly's new book! Elizabeth and I have been catching up on some of his things that we had missed, and she pointed out that he does not much seem to like things that are underground...

AnswerGirl said...

He's touring several US cities with THE GATES, Claire, so maybe he'll get to DC and you guys can meet him in person. Try inviting him spelunking, see what he says ... I'll be interested!

Everybody else, thanks for the advice. So far everyone's been a good sport about re-sending me the documents as .doc, but Anna, I may forward you a couple of things over the weekend.

Laura Benedict said...

Ugh. Me, too. It's even worse when I try to open them on my Mac. Glad you have help. I email them to myself and open them on one of our PCs--Or beg Pinckney! xo

AnswerGirl said...

I just noticed that someone came to this post with the search string "free download of THE GATES." You can read an early chapter of THE GATES for free at .

PLEASE do not download unauthorized online copies of any book, even if you happen to find it on some file-sharing server. Seriously, it's exactly the same as if you stole money out of an author's wallet. It's hard enough for authors to make a living from their work; their loyal readers should not be making it any harder for them.

AnswerGirl said...

And finally, an answer to this question that has worked for me: Gmail allows you to open any .docx attachment as a "Google document." Once it's open, you can select all, copy, and paste it into a new Word document.

Thanks to everyone for the advice!