I'm thinking of buying a mac but I am a bit worried about how mac will handle word files from a windows machine. I have a number of word files in both .doc and .docx format.

Does anyone know if there might be any problems opening these kind of files and, equally important, preserve the formatting and styles on a mac?

I will be using Microsoft word on the mac.


4 Answers 4


Does anyone know if there might be any problems opening these kind of files?

You won't have any problems. With the pre-installed Pages app on Mac, you can easily open any .docx and .doc files. They will be converted to .pages documents that can't be opened on Windows PCs, but you can easily export any documents from Pages as .docx files that can be opened on PCs.

An easier solution is to use the web-based Google Drive (née Google Docs) that will let you natively open .docx, sync them to your Google account on all your computers, and edit them from anywhere, including your Mac. Or, if you'd prefer the Microsoft-based approach, you can download the Office suite onto your Mac, which works just how it does on PCs.

Can I preserve the formatting and styles on a mac?

I've had no problems preserving format and styling of a .docx document on Mac, using Pages or Google Drive. You will have no problems with a modern program like the ones I've suggested above.

tl;dr: You can totally use Pages, Google Drive, or Word on your Mac to open, edit, and export documents without losing any formatting.

  • 1
    I would never recommend someone use Pages as a substitute for Word for serious academic or business work, it has too many potential limitations and compatibilty issues. LibraOffice would be better. Commented Feb 3, 2017 at 22:23

Late and long, HTH:

I've been using both Word 2016s, PC and MacOS, for 3 days now. There are compatibility issues breaking e.g. your TOC and StyleRefs and causing trouble in PDFs with at least one font of the Helvetica Neue LT Pro Family. It is quite easy to provoke Reference errors or an incomplete Table of Contents simply by opening a *.docx created in the other OS (see steps below). The third example is about the PDFs.

Error in StyleRefs: - Create a new blank document with Word 2016 - Rename built-in styles from level 1 through 4 - Create some dummy text and a few headers of all levels - Display the header of the current chapter in the document's footer via Field Function. You would now expect a field code like e.g. { STYLEREF "myHeader_01"..., but there is more: Word adds the name of the built-in style, e.g. (MacOS) { STYLEREF "Heading 1;myHeader_01"... or (PC) { STYLEREF "Heading 1,myHeader_01"... Did you already find the tiny difference? - Save your document, open it in the other OS. Prediction: The header text will not be shown in the footer. Instead, you get an error. The only difference is, that the Mac field codes work with ";" while the PC field codes use "," as a separator. - Remedy: Delete the name of the built-in style and the separator from the field code, only keep your own name. Thus you will not need a separator. Your document will now survive any field update in any OS.

Incomplete TOC: - Use the same test document and style set as above - Create another new level-1 header style - Create a custom TOC - Tap "Options" in the TOC assistant - Exclude one of the two 1st level headers from your TOC by erasing the numeric entry from the Input Field - Finish your TOC by means of the assistant - Toggle field codes (MacOS) { TOC \o "2-4" \t "myHeader_01;1" } and (PC) { TOC \o "2-4" \t "myHeader_01,1" } This will result in a TOC with 4 levels. The 1st level is created out of your style "myHeader_01" - thus the "1" behind the style name. Again you may remark the different separators in the (else identical) codes. - Save your document, open it in the other OS. At first you will see your TOC as expected. However, if you "Update Fields", 1st level entries will entirely disappear from your TOC. - Healing: If you can, delete the separator and the level number behind your style name. "If you can" = If you do not have to use separators for other purposes (e.g. exclusion of two or more header styles, exclusions in 2 and more levels). Without "," or ";" in the TOC field codes, your document will survive any field update in any OS without content loss.

Missing special characters in Mac PDFs - Install Font Family Helvetica Neue LT Pro in PC and Mac - Create a Word document with some dummy text. Type German special characters ä, ö, ü and others. Apply "Helvetica Neue LT Pro 65 Medium" (display in Mac Word's font dropdown box) / "Helvetica Neue LT Pro 65 Md" (display in PC Word) on all text. - Save document as PDF in both, PC and Mac version. - Compare PDFs: While the PC PDF displays ä, ö, ü as expected, the Mac PDF will display rectangles instead of these (and maybe other) letters. *.docx are ok in both OSs. - Workaround: Avoid this particular font or use it without ä, ö, ü, if you need to create PDFs from Word 2016's Mac version.

Conclusion: Word 2016 (MacOS) and Word 2016 (PC) do not create identical documents - even if you only use the typical functions (no VB etc.). The incompatibilities are worse than formatting issues; in my examples, they produced errors. You can never expect your documents to work without checking every page.


In general the "common stuff" goes back and forth between platforms with no problems. Differing sets of fonts, various levels of support for showing colors, etc., between platforms can cause documents to appear differently on Windows vs macOS.

Word has a compatibility checker than can help report on portions of documents that may not translate well to other versions of Word: https://support.office.com/en-US/article/Check-a-document-for-compatibility-C5AA52E0-15C8-4DA7-9942-379552795D90

Here's a document from Microsoft's support knowledge base that covers the topic of sharing MS Office documents amongst various versions of Office: https://support.office.com/en-US/article/Sharing-documents-with-other-versions-of-Office-fdc95a18-f1fe-4049-b85c-42e2143f9243

This article is focused on Powerpoint, but offers good tips about compatibility that apply to Word as well: https://support.office.com/en-US/article/Cross-Platform-PowerPoint-Compatibility-0eebb4f1-c329-4c50-b83c-3af1bab640de


Since you indicated that you will be using Word for Mac, as long as it's the 2016 or 2011 versions you will have no problems.

Microsoft has merged the code base (finally) so the versions for Mac and Windows are now identical, and the docs they produce are fully interoperable.


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