Downloading a Text File

Web pages are text files and are easy to download. For example, to save the file that you are reading right now, click "File--Save As" on your browser's toolbar, and save the file on your hard drive or floppy disk, either as a plain text (.TXT) or HyperText Markup Language (.HTM or .HTML) file. You should be able to open such files in your word processor or browser.

Since saving an HTML file as a simple text file strips out all the hypertext code, note that the saved file will require some editing in your word processor. It may have odd line lengths and other odd format features. Open it in your word processor to edit it.

Internet information providers often make word-processed files more immediately accessible by providing simple text files (usually with a "TXT" file extension). Text files are simple, universal, and transportable, but unfortunately they cannot convey attributes (such as underlining or bold). Here, for example, is a text file of the page you are reading. Try saving it and opening it in your word processor. This time the simple text file will look much better, because I've edited it for you beforehand.

[Text file]

To make formatted files that will travel well from one type of computer or software to another, programmers created a format that can handle text formatting. It is called "Rich Text." Files in this format have an "RTF" extension. "Rich Text" files can be opened by the major word processors in both IBM and Mac environments. Here's a link to another version of the page you're looking at, in Rich Text format: (Go ahead and click it, but be aware that his link may behave differently from the previous ones. Your browser may have opened the "TXT" file directly, but it may download the "RTF" file to your hard drive or floppy disk, where you can open it with your word processor. Or, depending upon how your software is configured, your computer may open your word processor automatically to read the file.)

[Rich Text file]

For really large blocks of text, Internet sites sometimes use yet another format: "zipped" or compressed files, usually with the file extension "ZIP." Such files are usually, but not always, self-extracting; that is, when you double-click on such a file, it automatically decompresses itself. Note: unlike text and image files that contain only data, compressed files can contain executable code such as computer viruses. Avoid downloading a ZIP file unless you are confident of the source's integrity, and even then, run a virus checker after downloading, just to be safe.

Next page

Back to beginning of "Online Resources for Research Writers"

Back to home page