The WordPad and Notepad programs that ship with Windows aren’t good document editing tools. In fact, as you likely know, none of these programs support documents created in Office Word program and support only basic text and rich text formats (WordPad).
Microsoft Word Viewer
If you download Word documents from the web very often and don’t have Microsoft Office Word installed on your PC, there are a couple of third-party applications that can help you open Word documents without any issues. For instance, you can use OpenOffice to open and edit all Office documents. Google Chrome lets you open Word, Excel and PowerPoint files within the browser by just installing an extension.
You can even use Microsoft’s web version of Word to open and edit Word documents provided that you have a Microsoft account. In addition to that, Microsoft offers a free program called Word Viewer to open Word documents on PCs that don’t have a version of Office installed.
The only catch with the Word Viewer program is that it doesn’t support documents created in Word 2010 and Word 2013 by default. In short, it’s compatible with only .doc file format and doesn’t support .docx format out of the box. You need to download and install Office Compatibility Pack in order to add support for .docx.
By installing Word Viewer and Office Compatibility Pack, you can open .txt, .docx, .rtf, .docm, .htm, .html, .doc, .wpd, and .xml file formats.
Note that Word Viewer can’t be used to edit Word documents and can be used to open view, print and copy Word documents. You need to install Office Word or a third-party program such as OpenOffice to edit Word documents. The web version of Office Word is an option as well.
If you need a program to open PowerPoint files, please download and install the PowerPoint viewer program from Microsoft.
NOTE: We know that there are a bunch of good programs available to open, view and edit Word documents and are better than the official Word Viewer. This program is useful for those who don’t need basic software to read and print Word documents.
UPDATED in March 2019: Word Viewer is no longer officially available to download from Microsoft. So, we have provided the FileHippo website link.