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Document file types – Important updates and differences

by Casey Schmidt  |  February 12, 2020

3 min. read
A man pulling a folder from a laptop.

There are numerous document formats, all of which should be known at the basic level. Make sure you’re able to recognize distinctions between document file types to distribute files in the right format. Also, learn specific nuances of document file types to streamline workflow and reduce inaccurate usage of formats. Here’s a guide to help you get a firm grasp of common document types.

Document file types – DOC and DOCX

The DOC and DOCX file types are a product of Microsoft Word software. The Word document originally, as a standard, saved as a DOC document file until the software moved to DOCX extensions. The DOC file type was popular due to its tie to Microsoft Office but it had its drawbacks. The main limitation of the DOC was it was restriction to access only from Microsoft software users. This restriction ended with the DOCX document file conversion, which adapts to other word processing sources.

The DOC and DOCX files are versatile and capable of handling tasks for contrasting user types. The files contain text but also a wide array of visual elements including graphs and tables. The main feature to note when deciding if this file type is right for your selection is the capability for editing it offers. The standard expectation of any file extension is capability for the original creator to be able to edit it. DOC and DOCX go one step further and offer anyone who receives the file the possibility to edit.

A screenshot of the DOCX file type logo.
Understand the difference of DOC and DOCX to maximize their benefits.


The XLS document file and XLSX document file are Microsoft Excel software products, which are in the form of a spreadsheet. The main uses of XLS and XLSX is data administration, particularly organizing and visualization of data. Like Microsoft Word, the XLSX is the updated version of the Excel file formats. The XLS is more accessible across the entire spectrum of users, whereas XLSX is restricted to updated systems past the inception of XLSX. There are conversion capabilities, which are prudent considering the way we store these formats.


The PDF document file is a Portable Document Format by Adobe that has become the most prevalent file format used on the web today. PDF is optimal for printing documents onto paper because it upholds the original intended layout of the file. A PDF is a superior option over DOC and DOCX when a user needs a more diverse selection of visual representations within a document. Most browsers as well as other programs are capable of opening PDF files. Choose PDF for files intended for mass sharing, especially for documents intended to stay unedited once delivered and shared. Remember that PDF files are shielded from unwanted editing.

A screenshot of the PDF logo.
Recognize when to use the popular file type PDF on the web.


HTML is Hypertext Markup Language, capable of display in web browsers. The HTML document file is more complex than others as it’s a webpage encrypted with hypertext. The makeup of the HTML is not visible for website visitors unless directly searched for. Web browsers, when necessary, save word processing files into HTML format. HTML is language that essentially dictates different graphics, colors and links on a webpage.

Understand which document file types best complement your workload so all parties involved in the transferring of the file can access and edit it if necessary. Finally, it’s important to note that all of these document file types are supported in Canto digital asset management (DAM). Consider a DAM in the future if you have a wide range of document files you need managed.