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Grabbing Files from the Web

I like to group nondocument files into the following two types:

  • Files that you want to transfer to your hard disk A link might point to an EXE or ZIP file (a program file or a ZIP archive file) that contains a program you want to install on your computer. Chapter 4, "Understanding Web Programs and File Types," deals with file formats. (See Appendix C for information about sources of shareware programs, which would fall into this category.)

  • Files that you want to play or view Other files are not things you want to keep; instead, they are files containing items such as sounds (music and speech), video, graphics, or word processing documents that are part of the Web site you are viewing.

Both types of files are the same in one way: Whatever you want to do with them—whether you want to save them or play them—you must transfer them to your computer. However, the purpose of the transfer is different, and the way it's carried out is different. When you want to play or display a file, you might have to configure a special viewer, helper application, or plug-in so that when the browser transfers the file it knows how to play or display it. Chapter 5, "Web Multimedia—From Flash to Napster," covers such things in detail. For now, we're interested only in the first type of file—a file that you want to transfer and save on your hard disk.

Files Can Be in Both Categories

Files can be in both the first and second categories. What counts is not so much the type of file, but what you want to do with the file and how your browser is configured. If you want to save the file on your hard disk, perhaps for later use, it would fall into the first category: save on your hard disk. If you want to view the file right now, it would fall into the second category: view in a viewer or plug-in.

Which category a file fits into also depends on the manner in which the file was saved. In its normal format, for instance, an Adobe Acrobat file (a PDF file) could fall into either category. In some compressed formats, it would fall into the first category only because you'd have to save it to your hard disk and decompress it before you could view it. (Compressed formats are explained in Chapter 4.)

Web authors can distribute computer files directly from their Web documents. Several years ago, pretty much the only file libraries were FTP sites (covered in Chapter 19). Now many Web sites have links to files. Companies that want to distribute their programs (shareware, freeware, or demo programs) and authors who want to distribute non-Web documents (PostScript, Word for Windows, Adobe Acrobat, and Windows Help documents, for example) can use Web sites to provide a convenient way to transfer files.

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