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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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.

This may sound complicated, but it's there to make your life easy. It means that if you click on an image on your computer, for example, the computer knows to automatically start your image viewer program.

A document icon with the filename highlighted as having '.doc' at the end
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 that you can type in and add pictures to.

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.

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.

Let's try downloading a PDF

Let’s have a go at downloading a PDF. This time, we are going to help Marcus download a PDF from his bank.

On the next slide is a practice activity that includes some steps to try yourself. Select the Continue button below to begin and then follow the instructions on the right side of the screen.

Downloading a PDF

Downloading a PDF

This is an interactive activity that allows learners to practise downloading a PDF document. This activity has no sound track and is made up of a number of images and text instructions with opportunities for the user to enter text or click on links as part of the exercise to download a PDF document.

This is to encourage confidence using the internet by practising a simple exercise in a simulated environment.

If a mistake is made during this exercise, there will be a prompt to ask you to try it again. If another mistake is made, the video will show you how to complete that section of the exercise.

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 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


Well done! Now that you've reached the end of the Types of documents activity, understanding different file types should be easy. The computer actually does a lot of the hard work for you - it knows how to use the file types automatically.

If you have registered and logged in to this website, you will now be able to take a short quiz to finish this course.