How to open Word files without Word

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I received a Word document as an attachment that I couldn't open because I use WordPerfect. I recall reading in your weekly newsletter that there is a way to open Word document files even if you don’t have Word installed; is that right?

A. If you are the recipient of a Word file, and you do not have Word, there are a couple of things you can do: One option is to install a free Word viewer, which will allow you to work with Word .doc files in the absence of Word itself.

As an alternative, OpenOffice is a free suite of software that functions almost identically to Microsoft Office. With OpenOffice, you can open Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, and Access database files.

For many years I used Microsoft Office and Word, exclusively, but I switched to OpenOffice several years ago. Since then, every time Microsoft releases a new version of Office, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that I don't have to purchase anything new or learn new methods of doing that which I already know, simply because items were moved or renamed. I highly recommend OpenOffice. As an added bonus, it's free!

For complete information about OpenOffice, visit You will find excellent, free, OpenOffice tutorials online.

Q. My new laptop came with Norton Antivirus installed. When the trial period ended a few days ago, I downloaded the free AVG antivirus program, but Norton blocked my ability to install it. What can I do about this, if anything, and do you recommend AVG or something else?

A. It is never a good idea to have two (or more) antivirus programs installed because they can detect each other. The result is usually false positive virus reports or even worse, the programs can effectively cancel each other out and leave you vulnerable to viruses. Eek!

Since you started to install AVG in the presence of Norton, I would suggest uninstalling both programs via Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs, then downloading and reinstalling only AVG.

Because I'm so frequently asked what I use, I maintain a list of my favorite programs, including antivirus protection, at, which you are welcome to review at any time. I keep the list updated and include a brief profile of each application, as well as a link to its site, should you be interested in obtaining additional information or downloading it.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz is arguably the most famous prison in the world. Although it is now a national park, the island prison was once notorious as the only "inescapable" facility in America. From its origins as an Army barracks, to its infamous status as a Federal prison, to its occupation by protesting Native Americans in the 1970s, it has a fascinating history. Take a virtual tour of the prison, read the stories of its famous residents, and learn what life was like for convicts cooling their heels on “The Rock.”

Vintage Toy Encyclopedia
Stores today are filled with high-tech gadgets that provide children with mind-numbing “entertainment” that does little to foster creativity or imagination. By comparison, the simpler toys of yesteryear seem quaint and charming. The toys in this virtual encyclopedia are divided into Action Figures, Dolls, Collectibles, and listed alphabetically within each category for easy browsing. I can hear it now, “Where do I insert the batteries for Mr. Potatoehead, Daddy?” or “Is it Bluetooth enabled?”

Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit