I've recently switched back to Mac after many years as a Windows user. I was delighted to be able to open my Word documents in TextEdit, but have had to reformat certain parts of the documents (specifically, bullets, tabs, and wrap to page) EVERY TIME I open the document. These are not saved in the file. I'm happy to change the format of the documents to rtf or whatever to keep the changes, but can't figure out how to do that either. The ultimate format for these docs is PDFs, so I don't really wish to buy MS Office for Mac. I can't find anything about this in TextEdit help.
In support of your advice ....
Preview will open directly .doc/.docx Word files. The path to PDF can also be through the Export facility.
Preview is only as good as Pages when attempting to open Word documents. If the OP has complicated Word documents that will not open with Preview, then a suggestion is to download and install the free LibreOffice 4.x (libreoffice.org) application. This will certainly open Word documents.
Rather than learn LibreOffice just to convert PDF, the OP can use the following Terminal command:
/Applications/LibreOffice.app/Contents/MacOS/soffice --headless -convert-to pdf:writer_pdf_Export sample.docx
This will write out a PDF of the input file to the current directory. Providing *.doc or *.docx on the command-line will convert all files matching this description to their PDF counter-parts. There is a --outdir argument that given a path to a directory, will place the resulting PDF there for improved organization.
The above command does not visibly launch LibreOffice. The only output is a single line to the terminal indicating that the conversion has taken place.