How to Change Encoding in Word

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Microsoft Word and other programs can store text in a variety of formats known as character encodings. Certain character encodings are better suited to displaying certain languages or are customarily used in certain countries. In some cases, you may need to change the encoding on a file in Word to another encoding in order to work with it or enable others to read it properly. Try Microsoft Word file conversion in an encoding problem situation to see if the file becomes more readable.

Understanding Character Encodings

Text on a computer is always represented in some sort of character encoding, which specifies how the binary 1's and 0's stored in a computer's circuitry are translated into the characters that appear on screen. A font then specifies what each character looks like.

Older systems often used country-specific character encodings. Common Western encodings include ASCII, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange, and EBCDIC, the Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code character set. Other systems were used around the world. Today, many newer programs and files will use a character encoding based on Unicode, an international standard that defines support for everything from English and Chinese text to emoji and symbols used in games like chess and mahjongg.

One of the most common Unicode-based encodings is called UTF-8, and you'll often find UTF-8-encoded words on the internet and in files like Word documents. By default, recent versions of Word will use a Unicode encoding.

How to Change Encoding in Word

Occasionally, you may open a file in Word and find it doesn't display properly because Word didn't correctly determine the character encoding. At other times, you may send a file created in Word to someone whose computer cannot display the encoding used to save it.

Word enables you to specify the encoding of a file when you save it or open it.

If you open a file and it appears garbled, and you suspect there's an encoding problem, click the "File" tab. Then, click "Options" and "Advanced." Within the "General" section, click "Confirm file format conversion on open."

Close the file and open it again. You will be prompted to specify encoding settings. In the pop-up box, select "Encoded Text." Select "Other Encoding" and the encoding you want. Preview the text in the preview window of the dialog box before confirming in order to verify that the text looks correct.

If you don't want to normally be prompted to pick encodings for future files you open in Word, uncheck the "Confirm file format conversion on open" checkbox.

When you save a file as plain text in Word, you can specify the encoding to use. Save the file using the "Save As" option in the "File" tab and under "Save as type," select "Plain Text." In the "File Conversion" dialog box, click the encoding you want to use to save the file.