File problems

This page discusses how to download and read files. It also discusses file formats.

Please let me know if you have trouble accessing any files; sometimes, your comment is the way I find out that there is a problem.

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How to download a file

When you try to download a file, your browser may try to open it rather than download it. The details depend on your setup. If this is an issue, use a right-button click to directly save the file to your disk. Then choose "Save link as..." (Firefox, Netscape) or "Save target as..." (Opera, Internet Explorer). [In Netscape, SHIFT-click (hold the SHIFT key down while clicking) should also allow you to directly save the file.]

File formats

I post files in various formats. If the format posted is not good for you, please check with me. I can probably get you another format, and the feedback about what people want is good.

Word DOC files

The Word files I post are (usually) from Word 6. They should read fine with any version of Word from version 6 to more recent. Page breaks and page numbers may differ, because these depend on your system. But if there any other problems, I need to know about them. Please tell me, specifically (which file, what problem), so I can deal with the problem.

Word DOC files can be read (and printed) with the free programs Word Viewer (Microsoft) or OpenOffice. RTF files derived from the Word files can be read by many word processing programs.

Other files

The comments above are about how to download certain files from my site. I have been asked the more general question of how to download files (such as movie files) from other web sites. For example, you may be able to open a movie file and show it while at the web site, but you would like to download (save a copy of) the movie file. The problem is that "it depends" -- on many things. It depends on the file type, on the way the web page author has set it up (possibly with some intent to hide the file from you), and on the software you use (which may be beyond your control, as in libraries). What we can do here is to suggest some general approaches to downloading a file. You'll need to explore the details for any particular case, and it may or may not work.

There are two general steps. First, you need to find the proper full name and address of the file you want -- its URL. Second, you need to use that URL to get to the file in a way that allows you to download it. Each of those steps is considered below.

1. Finding the full file name (its URL at the site owner's web site).

If the file of interest is open (is being displayed), try to get the file URL from the file "Properties" box. This may be available from the File menu. If that menu is not available, try right-click, with the cursor on the item; the right-click menu often has "Properties" on it. You can select the file name (drag the cursor over the full file name) and copy it (CTRL C).

Remember that right-click menus are context sensitive. If the screen shows a web page with a movie in it, clicking on the background web page and on the movie itself will give different right-click menus.

If you can't get the file name from File Properties, try looking at the source code for the page that calls the file. You should be able to get the source code by using View Source (View menu, or the right-click menu). You have to look through the source for the name of the file of interest. You may find only the file name itself, not the entire URL. In this case, you will need to reconstruct the entire URL, using the URL of the page you are on as a guide.

2. Now that you have the file URL, how do you get the movie? The general approach is to put the file URL where it will "light up" as a link that can be clicked on. A right-click on such a clickable link should offer you the option to save the file. How? Here are a couple things to try:

Put the file name in your browser as a URL. That is, try to go directly to the file. You may be offered the choice of saving the file. If not -- if it opens automatically -- you may be able to save the file. Look for "save" or "save as" on the File menu or a right-click menu. If there is no File menu, a right-click on the player (not the movie) may reveal it.

Alternatively, put the file URL into an email message or a file. The goal is to put it somewhere so it "lights up" as a clickable link. Putting it into an e-mail message, and simply moving the message to your IN folder may work. Or perhaps you will need to actually e-mail the message to yourself to get the link to light up. Your word processing program, such as Word, may accept the link and light it up. Once a link lights up, a right-click should lead to an option to save the file.

In any case, if you can get the link to a place where you can click on it, you will probably be offered the option of saving the file.


With the Firefox browser, there is another option, which works for some files. The following assumes you are at a page that includes a media file you want to download. Instructions here are based on Firefox v 3.08.
* Right-click somewhere on the main background of the page (not on the media file itself).
* From the menu that appears, choose View Page Info.
* Click on the Media tab on the top row. (Other tabs there include General and Security. If the Media tab does not appear, it means that no media files are available.) That gives a list of available media files.
* Select the item of interest; press Save as to download it.

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Last update: August 09, 2011