Q: Windows to Mac Compatibility

I understand MS Word for Windows and MS Word for Mac are compatible and share the same file extension .docx. However, are they absolutely, unequivocally 100% alike -- in other words, if I transfer a .docx file from Windows OS to Mac OS there will be no change in formatting of any kind, i.e. no loss of header/footer data, no widow/orphans, no missing graphical inserts, no re-hyphenation of words at the ends of lines, sentences or paragraphs due to varying parameters in the Mac environment, etc. etc. I'm considering leaving the PC realm in favor of Apple, and I have thousands of documents to bring over, so this is a fairly big deal.

Can anyone confirm or correct this? Thank you.



The Microsoft Office file format is for Word, Excel and PowerPoint files between Mac and PC. The file format is called Office Open XML (OOXML) and was established by an international standards body. Office 2010 for Windows with service pack 2 or later and Office 2011 for Mac comply strictly with the standard. Office 2008 for Mac and 2007 and 2010 for Windows prior to service pack 2 comply about 98% of the way to the standard (there's a very minor exception in Excel). 

Microsoft also ships the same set of fonts with Microsoft Office for Mac and PC.

As for having documents be identical when moving from one computer to another there are factors you must consider. This is true PC to PC, PC to Mac, Mac to Mac, and Mac to PC. Microsoft Word is a word processor that has text that flows, unlike a PDF or page layout program. Any difference in font or printer driver from one machine to another has the potential to affect spacing, breaks, window & orphans, paragraphs, etc. To repeat - these changes have nothing to do with Mac to PC, rather they are caused by computer to computer differences.

Your documents should look the same on the Mac as long as ALL of these conditions are met:

* The documents on the PC originated in Microsoft Word 2010 with service pack 2

* The documents were saved in a current OOXML file format in Word 2010

* The documents used only fonts supplied with Microsoft Office 2010

* Old versions of the same fonts are not installed or active on either the Mac or the PC

* The documents are opened on the Mac in Microsoft Word 2011

* The current versions of the Microsoft Office fonts are active on the Mac

* The printer driver on the Mac behaves identically to the printer driver that was being used on the PC where the documents were saved.

The behavior of Word is identical on the two platforms with regard to the formatting you expressed concern about. There are conditions that must be met if you want your documents to look alike when moving from one computer to another - regardless of platform. It's the fonts, file formats and printer drivers that are the sticky points when moving a document from one computer to another regardless of platform.

These are hard to control from a user perspective. In Word 2010 with SP 2 you could use macros to make sure your documents have only Microsoft Office fonts and are saved in the current file format before bringing them to the Mac, and even save them as a PDF for future reference. You won't have control over how exactly matching your printer drivers will be - even if you are using the same printer. Inevitably, some documents may need to be tweaked, as a result. 

][ MVPs are volunteers who don't work for Microsoft. MVP program info is here:

Did this solve your problem?

Sorry this didn't help.

24 people were helped by this reply



As it was once put to me, those you should be most prone to distrust are those who are least hesitant to offer iron-clad guarantees :-)

Somewhat paraphrasing what Jim points out, variation in the behavior of Word documents from one environment to another usually boils down to one of two causes:
  • Differences between one computer to the next, &
  • How the document was constructed (i.e., user error)
Not meant to discourage you from switching to Mac, but based on what I infer from your message I'd urge you to intently compare the Mac version with what you're accustomed to on the PC. Despite the file compatibility & extensive commonality of features there are some differences. How significant those difference are varies from one user to another, but it's better to know going in what the "trade-offs" may be for you...

Of course, one of the major advantages of a reasonably capable Mac is that - if necessary - you can also install Windows with PC Office & run it side-by-side with your Mac software. For example, currently installed on my iMac I have;
  • Office 2004
  • Office 2008
  • Office 2011
  • Office 2003 running in a Windows XP Pro VM
  • Office 2007 running in another Windows XP Pro VM
  • Office 2010 running in a Windows 7 Pro VM

I should note that I never have reason to have them all running simultaneously, but they're all available as needed. The point being that on a Mac you can not just have compatibility, you can have the real thing?

Bob J.
Please mark HELPFUL or ANSWERED as appropriate to keep list as clean as possible ☺
Bob J.

Did this solve your problem?

Sorry this didn't help.

9 people were helped by this reply

Question Info

Views: 132,722 Last updated: June 23, 2018 Applies to: