One of the banes of modern working life comes about when trying to collaborate remotely with colleagues using different software. Mac users pick up a spreadsheet, presentation deck or word-processing document created by one of their Windows-based colleagues, and breathe a sigh of despair. Here we go again, they think.

Well, cheer up. Because the file type we're looking at here (we've already looked at editing .xlsx files on Mac and Pages documents on PC) is pretty simple. In this article we show how to open and edit .docx files created in Microsoft Word on a Mac, iPhone or iPad, as well as how to save changes in a format that can be opened on a PC.

Editing a .docx file on Mac

This one's easy.

A .docx file will open quite happily in Word for Mac, of course, but it can also be edited in Pages, the nearest thing to a first-party Apple equivalent. Simply drag the file on to Pages or Word in your dock and it'll open in the chosen application.

(Alternatively, you can right-click the file and select Open With. This is the easier option if Pages isn't in your dock.)

How to edit docx files on Mac: Pages

Once you've got the .docx file open in Pages, you can edit it to your heart's content.

Exporting from Pages on Mac

The difficulty comes when you try to save your edits; if you're dealing with a Windows PC user then you certainly won't want to save the document as a Pages document. (If you do, however, turn to our guide to opening Pages documents on PC.)

How to edit docx files on Mac: Pages

A better option is to export the document for Word. This feels counterintuitive, because it was a Word document when you got it, so it should be saved in the .docx format by default, right? Not so: Pages will default to Apple-friendly formats.

So, in Pages, go to File > Export To > Word. At this point you can select Advanced Options and choose a file format such as .doc, but it will default to .docx.

How to edit docx files on Mac: Pages

If you don't care about formatting it might be easier at this point to export as Plain Text, which is pretty much bombproof when it comes to cross-platform compatibility, but almost any special formatting will be lost.

Editing a .docx file on iPhone or iPad

An iPhone or iPad is capable of opening a .docx file too, but the way you handle the file varies somewhat depending on how you obtained it.

Let's say someone emailed the .docx file to you. In Mail, open the email, and you'll see an icon at the bottom which shows the name and size of the file, and its download progress. Once it's downloaded, you can tap it to open the file and see the contents.

How to open a .docx file on iPhone

But this is just a way of opening and seeing a docx file - this doesn't let you edit and resave the file for someone else to use in turn.

Assuming you've got Pages on your iDevice (and the app is free for all reasonably recent models) then the best approach is to tap and hold the document's icon in the email and then select Import with Pages from the sharing menu.

How to edit a .docx file on iPad

You may find some formatting problems at this point; we were told that the font we'd used in Word wasn't available in Pages, even though the same document didn't produce this message in Pages on Mac. Tap Done.

How to edit a .docx file on iPad

You should now see all your Pages documents, with the newly imported .docx file at the top of the list. Tap the new document to open it, and then make any desired changes.

Exporting from Pages on iPad or iPhone

As on the Mac, we will need to choose to export the document as a Word file, but on the iOS version of Pages the word 'export' is not used. Tap the 'three dots' menu icon at the top right to open the More menu, and tap 'Send a Copy'. Choose Word from the selection of formats.

How to edit a .docx file on iPad: Send copy

At this point you can share the document (which will be saved as a .docx) via Mail, Message, AirDrop or any other method you prefer.

How to edit a .docx file on iPad