Types of documents


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Types of documents

Man views an online document on his tablet

What's coming up?

When you start to download documents, you may notice that there are different types of files.

When you’re downloading forms from a government or business website, for example, you may have the option to download a PDF (Portable Document File) or a Word file. Each type of document needs to be viewed using a different computer program.

In this activity, we're going to look at different types of files you can download, and how you can open them on your computer.

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A document icon with the filename highlighted as having '.doc' at the end

Understanding file types

Every document or image you download from the internet has what is called a file type. This tells your computer which application it should use to read the document.

The file type is usually indicated by a three- or four-letter code at the end of the file name. For example, a Word document might have a doc code at the end, and the file might be named bus timetable.doc. This tells your computer to open the Microsoft Word program to read the file.

You may not see a file type

Windows computers usually don’t show the file type code unless you switch that on in your settings. But it doesn’t matter. The codes are for your computer. It means that if you click on an image on your computer, for example, the computer knows to automatically start your image viewer program.

You can tell the document type from the icon next to the file name.

A Word document displays without the .doc suffix on most Windows computers
The Microsoft Word document icon

How to read a Word document

To read a Word document you need a program called Microsoft Word installed on your computer. Some computers come with this program installed ready to go, or you may need to pay for it separately. A Word document is a word processor file into which you can type text and add pictures.

How to read a PDF document

To read a PDF document, you can use a number of different types of software, however many people use a program called Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download this for free from the Adobe website: https://www.get.adobe.com/reader/.

A PDF document may be a read-only file, meaning you can't make changes to it. Instruction manuals, maps and timetables are examples of this type of PDF.

However, some PDF documents do allow you to make changes to them. For example, many forms that can be downloaded from the internet may be fillable PDFs that let you add information.

The PDF icon

How to download a PDF

Dominic needs to lodge a claim with Medicare, but doesn't have a form. Instead of going to the Medicare office, he will download the form from the internet.

Click Continue to watch the video on the next screen.

Downloading a PDF

This demonstration video is approximately 1 minute and 4 seconds in duration. It demonstrates how to download a Medicare form from the internet. The form is available as a Portable Document Format file, known as a PDF.

Once the video starts, the intro panel fades and we see the screen is split into two parts. On the left-hand side is a Google search engine web page. On the right-hand side, there is text displayed, which is the script for the voiceover track.

Voiceover: "Dominic looks for the form on the web by typing Medicare claim form into the Google search bar. He selects the first option that appears in the search results."

The left-hand panel shows Medicare claim form being entered into the Google search bar, and a list of results appearing. The first on the list is the Medicare page that Dominic is searching for, so he we see the cursor click on the link. This takes Dominic to the Medicare page where he can find a link to the form he's looking for.

Voiceover: "He clicks on Medicare Claim. This is a link to the form, which is in PDF format. A PDF file can be viewed on almost any computer system, making it great for forms like these."

The left-hand panel shows the cursor click on the form link, and the browser displays some option buttons for the next step.

Voiceover: "The web browser asks Dominic if he'd like to save the form. He wants to save it to his computer, so he clicks Save."

The left-hand panel shows the Save being clicked. The download commences, and when finished, a new list of options pops up.

Voiceover: "When the download is complete, Dominic clicks Open to view the form."

The left-hand panel shows the form opening up in the Adobe Acrobat program that Dominic has installed on his computer.

Voiceover: "The form opens up in the Adobe Acrobat program, ready for Dominic to fill in. Once complete, he can print it off and take it to Medicare."

Video ends.

Other types of documents

There are many other file types you can download from the internet, and each type requires a different program to run.

Let's have a look at some other types of files you might come across.

MP3 files

You may come across this type of file when you are playing music on your computer. An .mp3 is an audio file or a music file, and may look like this:


Example of mp3 icon and filename
Example of jpg icon and filename

Jpg files

A .jpg (usually pronounced as jay-peg) file is an image or photo file, and may look like this:


Mp4 files

An .mp4 file is a video file, and may look like this:


Example of mp4 icon and filename
Woman happily using her tablet at home


You've completed the Types of documents activity. It's good to know what some of the more common different file types mean. Your computer actually does a lot of the hard work for you - it knows how to use most file types automatically.

Next up, if you have registered and are logged into the Be Connected website, you'll now be able to take a short quiz to finish the Downloading and saving documents course. If you're not registered, you are now at the end of the course.