I'm preparing a document for Macintosh users. Currently the document is in .doc format.

Will all Mac OSX users be able to view that format? If not, is there a better universal format to use? (.RTF, .PDF, etc.)

  • 1
    How about using Google Docs? – Michael Aaron Safyan Apr 10 '11 at 23:11
  • @Michael Google Docs is great when everyone is technical, has a Google account, and you don't need it to look good or do formatting. In my experience, any group with more than three people will have someone who refuses to use Google Docs, making it useless. – CajunLuke Jun 13 '11 at 23:59
  • Google Docs isn't even close to a solution. We don't know what or how he intends to distribute or use the docs. For GDocs the users need internet connections, web browsers, accounts, and there are cloud storage issues (security, availability), etc. – geoO Feb 6 '13 at 18:57

PDFs will open in Preview for viewing - no Adobe Reader required. RTF will open in TextEdit, and can be edited, also with no optional software required. Which one is better depends on whether you want the user to be able to edit the document, or just read it.


Any RTF or PDF will be viewable by all Mac users. Mac users without Word installed can still use "QuickLook" to view a .doc file but it is less convenient.

  • 2
    How is QuickLook less convenient? You don't have to open another application. And TextEdit will open .doc files, but won't be able to show some features. – ughoavgfhw Apr 11 '11 at 4:48
  • 4
    QuickLook often messes up a lot of the contents of .doc files. It's not rare to see missing objects and/or misplaced elements. For simple .docs it's ok, but that's as far as it goes. It's also somewhat slow if the document is too complex. – Martin Marconcini Apr 11 '11 at 8:26
  • 1
    QuickLook can also be very confusing for inexperienced users (even experienced users): if you click off the file the QuickLook window stays open but now displays the contents of whatever you clicked on. If the Finder isn't the frontmost app then the QuickLook window vanishes, only to surprisingly reappear when you switch back to the Finder. This latter behavior is particularly annoying if you want to, say, look at the document on one side of your monitor and at an email or web page or whatever on the other side: if the Finder isn't frontmost you can't see both. Frankly, it's surprisingly bad. – Matthew Frederick Jun 14 '11 at 0:04
  • QuickLook, as a quick preview which is it's role, is quite easy and fast to use as opposed to fully opening an app such as Word, Photoshop or Quicktime. I rarely even open another app for picture viewing or even movie viewing. It is only confusing if you feel you are actually in another app, not still in the Finder, but since you didn't double click the file and see the other app open why would you believe that? – geoO Feb 6 '13 at 18:55

How about plain text? Does this document really need all that formatting?

And putting aside the Mac issue, why would you use .doc for something that .rtf could do just as well?


The very purpose of PDF is to present documents in a format ALL systems (Mac, Windows, Linux etc.) will display correctly, in such a way that the viewer cannot edit (useful for legal docs for example).


Text files with Markdown formatting? Should be forward and backward compatible in perpetuity...


Another alternative is HTML which I would prefer over pdf if the information is mainly text as the viewer can alter font and window sizes to suit themselves. It is also read only like pdf

  • How is HTML read-only? It's easy enough to bring into TextEdit and - if you don't know what you are doing - mess it up to the point of not being readable. – David Apr 11 '11 at 11:57
  • 1
    @David, true, though the default app to open the html files is usually a web browser. – Jari Keinänen Apr 11 '11 at 14:59

Yes. Textedit can read .DOC files.

If the formatting is particularly important, as always, you may want to use .PDF instead. Any Mac of reasonably recent vintage can read either of those formats out of the box.


The only truly "universal" format is text. As in a plain .txt file. Any Mac can open .txt, .rtf, .doc,. pdf. No extra software involved. Which is one step ahead of Windows which cannot open a .pdf without additional software, such as Adobe Reader or FoxIt. For readability go with .pdf, otherwise if you can certainly stick with .txt, especially if it needs to be modified, copied, etc by the reader.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .