Why is a word document opening in notepad?

Written by pam durant
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Why is a word document opening in notepad?
(Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Microsoft Word and Notepad are two applications that can coexist peacefully on the same computer if configured correctly. Both programs can handle basic word-processing functions, though Word has more sophisticated features than Notepad. If Word files on your computer are launching Notepad when opened, the problem can usually be solved by making a small change to your .doc or .docx file-association settings.

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File Extensions

Think of the three-letter extension following the dot after a filename as a type of "last name" for the file. It helps to identify the file "family" that the file belongs to, or more specifically, the type of program used to create (or open) the file. These file extensions are typically not shown in Windows Explorer unless View option settings for the current folder are adjusted to show them. The .doc and .docx extensions represent files that were created in Microsoft Word and will normally be identified in Windows Explorer by Word's blue "W" icon.

File Associations

If the program that the .doc and .docx files are associated with has been changed somehow, then they will launch another program when double-clicked from Windows Explorer. Changing the file association is done by right-clicking on the file in Windows Explorer, choosing "Open With..." from the shortcut menu that appears and then selecting a program other than Word to open the file. If Notepad is ever selected as the program that should launch .doc and .docx files and the "Always use the selected program to open this kind of file" option is enabled, then Notepad will be the new program that .doc and .docx files are associated with.

Missing or Corrupted Program

If Microsoft Word is accidentally corrupted or uninstalled on a computer containing .doc and .docx files, then these files will be associated with whatever program currently exists on the computer that can read text files. If Notepad is the only program of this type remaining on the computer, then .doc and .docx files will automatically open with Notepad.

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