Could someone let me know the differences between "document" and "file"?Tks in advance.

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2 Answers 2


Assuming you are talking about computers:

A file is a collection of data stored in one unit, identified by a filename. (from TechTerms) The contents can be anything--something you create, a program, multiple things stored in an archive, even random junk. It's characteristics are:

  • it's a single unit
  • it's stored (if it exists only in active memory, it isn't a file until it is stored somewhere)
  • it has a filename, which means it is recognized as an actual entity, as opposed to a random chunk of data, and it can be located and handled.

There are a number of variations in the definition of document. One is that it is a file created by a software application. (from TechTerms) That draws a distinction between software and what the software is used to create. That's technically true, but doesn't quite capture the essence.

"Document" is usually used to describe a file, or something being created to be saved as a file, that a user creates and that contains "user data" (i.e., data of, by, or for a user as opposed to data to support the computing infrastructure). The term typically is not applied to something that is a program, an archive (a collection of files stored inside one "wrapper"), and certain files created by software but not by the user, such as data dumps or logs generated automatically by the operating system.

"Document" is not limited to something created by the user for himself. It includes documents created by others. So for example, user instructions and support information that is included with software would be documents.

The term isn't typically applied to user stuff that is a collection or system of files rather than a single file. For example, a database is typically a collection of files, or at least tables and other sub-units of information that the users works with like multiple items, and it is more like a tool for creating documents. So that isn't usually referred to as a document. But something like a report generated from the database would be. Microsoft Office documents are actually archives, but that is just the nature of how Microsoft chose to store it. It is still called a document because the user sees it and works with it like a single item.

A document isn't limited to text, or even character/symbol-based content, but it is generally applied only to content that you take in visually and could potentially be printed (e.g., non-animated), which would include graphical material. Multimedia content isn't usually referred to as a document.


We'd need more context. Assuming a computer science context, a document is usually a written file. It can be a Word document, Excel document, etc.

As I said, a document is a file, but a file doesn't have to be a document. Merrian Webster dictionary definition for file in this context is "a collection of related data records (as for a computer) (2) : a complete collection of data (such as text or a program) treated by a computer as a unit especially for purposes of input and output"

A file doesn't have to be directly readable by a human being, while a document generally is.

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