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How Do I Decode an Encoded Word Document?

Updated February 21, 2017

Microsoft Word is a program which allows you to write documents and save them for later use. It is a part of the Microsoft Office Suite. Saving a document and reopening it can, on occasion, cause a file you've previously written to appear in a garbled manner. When this happens it means that the program has not properly detected the encoding standard in which the file was saved. You can still retrieve your file by following a few simple steps.

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  1. Open your file if it is not currently open with Microsoft Office Suite. One of the most common ways to have an encoding error is by using a different program to reopen a file.

  2. Click the "Office" button and select "Word Options." Then click the "Advanced" option.

  3. Find the "General" section in advanced options and check the box next to "Confirm file format conversion on open." This will tell the program that it should run a check on the file's encoding when it opens the next time.

  4. Close, and reopen the file. Word should now have displayed a dialogue box titled "Convert File." If Word did not display the dialogue box, then repeat Steps 1 through 4.

  5. Select the "Encoded Text" option in the "Convert File" dialogue box that just opened.

  6. Select "Other Encoding" in the "File Conversion" dialogue box, and then choose the encoding standard you wish to use from the list provided. You will have the option to preview your text. Use this to check the text for readability in the coding standard that you selected.

  7. With a little trial and error this should solve your encoding error problems when files load in an improper manner.

  8. Tip

    If you regularly work with files in Word formats such as doc, .dot, .docx, .docm, .dotx or .dotm, you may wish to turn the encoding standard off after fixing your document You can also choose an encoding standard when you save a file. This may prevent future encoding errors when you open a file.


    If your document does not show up properly after using this guide, consider the possibility that the font used in the file is not available on the computer you are using. If this is the case, you will need to either use another computer to open the file or you will need to find and install the required font.

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About the Author

Giselle Diamond is a freelance writer and has been writing since 1999. Diamond is experienced in writing in all genres and subjects, with distinguished experience in home and garden, culture and society, literature and psychology. Diamond has a Master of Arts in English and psychology from New York University. Diamond has articles published on both eHow and LiveStrong.

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