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Text Document Formats

Confused by .DOC, .PDF, and .XML?.

Confused with all the document formats? What is a .DOC? A .PDF?. Get help here!

.doc files

.doc was the default format for Microsoft Word documents for many years. It is still available as a format by choosing it. Since Microsoft's Office Suite is the most widely-used of all the office suites out there, this format is very popular. Microsoft also has a used the .doc format for its word processing program in Microsoft Works.

Word has changed its internal format with most every new update, but they all used the .doc extension by default until Word 2007. Sometimes this leads to a problem if you are trying to open a newer version document in an older version of Word.

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.html files

.html (sometimes written as .htm) stands for HyperText Markup Language and is the format used for web page documents. What you see on this web page is a combination of text and images for the content, and codes for the presentation of the contents. A standards group defines the codes to be used to format the material on a web page.

The codes are also operating system-independent. This means that the same web page can be viewed on a computer running the Macintosh operating system from Apple, the Windows operating system from Microsoft, the Linux operating system, or any other system that abides by the codes. The combination of content and codes is the .html document. Today most word processors can read and write .html files, and they can be displayed in any web browser.

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.pdf files

Adobe Systems created an open-file format in 1993 which they proposed to be a "universal" format to exchange documents among differing programs and operating systems. They called it Acrobat. It is used for representing documents in a manner which allows a document created using this format to be opened and read on any device at any resolution, and to have the document look the same as it did on the device on which it was created.

This works because every PDF file contains a complete description of a document that includes the text, fonts, images, and graphics that compose the document. These documents do not contain any information about the software, the hardware, or the operating system which created them. Consequently, a valid PDF will display in exactly the same manner on all devices.

PDF can be used to create a very simple document composed of just text with no font or color changes in it. But, it can also be used to create very complex documents using a variety of fonts, graphics, colors, and images. It has become one of the most widely used document formats today because of its portability.

Adobe Acrobat comes in two flavors:

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.rtf files

.rtf (for Rich Text Format) was an early attempt to create a format for interchanging formatted text between applications. It still remains an optional format. It retains most of the formatting from the original document while keeping all its content. Although it began in Microsoft Word versions, most other word processors such as WordPerfect can import and read .rtf format files.

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.txt files

.txt is a filename extension for files composed of the text of the document with no formatting other than line breaks. In other words, there is no bold or italic, no font change information, no images saved in the file. This kind of text format is also called plain text.

The precise definition of the .txt format is not specified, but is largely human readable with no formatting included. Such files are readable and writable in most word processors, as well as simple text editors such as Notepad. Because any program that can read text can open such files, it is considered to be one of the platform-independent document formats available. They are often used to exchange content between differing systems, such as between a Windows machine and a Macintosh machine or a Linux machine.

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.wpd files

.wpd (for WordPerfect document), like Word, is a proprietary word processing application. In the 1980s and early 1990s, WordPerfect was the most widely-used word processor in the world. It was produced in over 20 languages, and was considered the standard word processor. Its popularity was based on the fact that it was available for a wide variety of computers and operating systems. Most of these systems have long since passed from the scene, and it has been replaced in sales by Microsoft Word.

From its beginnings, WordPerfect had many features in it aimed at the legal profession, so it is still one of the more widely-used document formats for legal documents.

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.xml files

.xml format is one of the newest document formats supported by most word processors. It contains the content of the document, and its structure as well. This is in a file which human beings can read. It is both machine- and platform-independent. Its structure is defined by a standards committee, and it is an open format. This is the new default format for Microsoft Word beginning with Word 2007, replacing the .doc format which Word has used for years.

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