Papers and weird file formats

We’ve all been there: a student has sent us their research paper, and Word refuses to open it. It’s not corrupt, it’s just not a Word file.

Here’s file extensions for some of the more common word processors that aren’t Microsoft Word, what program they were created in, and ways you can open them.

Usually, a student has submitted a paper in one of these formats because they haven’t installed or don’t have access to Microsoft Word. Several of these are either free or come pre-installed on certain computers.

How can we open them? The first option is to request that the student re-submit the file as a Microsoft Word compatible file. Fortunately, practically every word processor on the market has the option to export as a Word document. These are usually found under the File -> Save As or File -> Export options in the respective program.

An even better option is the direct the student to Ivy Tech’s free download of Office 365. It is available to all students, and is good for the duration of their enrollment at Ivy Tech. Office 365 can be installed on up to 5 computers, and requires Windows 7 or better, or Mac OS X 10.7 or better.

If all else fails, or you’re feeling adventurous, there are ways to convert or open many of these files yourself.

.wps, .wpd, and .odt files can be opened directly from within recent versions of Microsoft Word. You would go to the File -> Open menu, and change your filter to “All Files”. After selecting the document, Word will convert the file and display it for you.


.abw and .zabw files open in AbiWord, which is also a free download. AbiWord is actually an excellent lightweight word processor for ancient PCs that can’t run a recent version of Microsoft Word. are actually regular .zip files containing the document itself. If you open it, you may be able to find a .pdf version of the document. Otherwise, you’ll just have to have the student export as a Word document, unless you have access to a Mac running Pages. Alternately, you can send the document to the IDC at and we can convert it for you.


Posted on November 24, 2014, in Misc, Technology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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