I find it confusing the fact that a DMS (document Management System) should deal with documents and their uploads.

Often however when you upload you are asked for a file, which when is stored in the DMS becomes a document. See for instance below example:


I could post several examples of the same idiosyncrasy throughout several different DMS. Is there a way to avoid this?

On a side note, why do all systems use the word "file" which should indicate a folder containing several documents to denote a single data object?

  • I don't understand the last sentences. Could you please elaborate? – Izhaki Oct 25 '13 at 11:15
  • the word "file" in english is defined as "a folder, cabinet, or other container in which papers, letters, etc., are arranged in convenient order for storage or reference. ", so file should be a synonim of folder, in computing terms instead a folder is one thing while a file is a different thing: "a collection of related data or program records stored on some input/output or auxiliary storage medium". – dendini Oct 25 '13 at 12:24
  • Makes perfect sense now. – Izhaki Oct 25 '13 at 13:04
  • ok but why no one answers me the last side note? :) – dendini Oct 28 '13 at 15:34

There is a research document on this particular topic by Microsoft that goes into a little bit of detail, and the short version of it is that there has been some blurring of the definition due to the change in the design and implementation of software over time. If you look at a program like Microsoft OneNote you'll see that a file can have both metadata and actual physical data. A file can also be a physical or a logical container of information. The word document has generally been used in the past due to its association with word processing, but these days there are many more types of files, and you'll find the terms used interchangeably.

The biggest change to the understanding of files is probably going to come when cloud based systems become the norm, because a file will not only become something that is opened and edited by one person at a time, but there will be many different versions that can be accessed by different people at different times, and it will truly cease to become just a single instance or an entity with an easily defined boundary of access.

Reference: What is a file?

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  • great insight the fact that in the future with clouds we will less have to do with files as we see them now. Probably we will deal mostly with documents and revisions of them because file is deeply rooted with the specific storage mechanism which in the future will be transparent to the user. – dendini Oct 28 '13 at 15:33
  • I have updated the answer with the reference I mentioned, so hopefully that will give you more details. – Michael Lai Oct 28 '13 at 22:41

When digital audio emerged around the 1950s the term digitalize was already used by the medical industry for a completely different process; so the digital audio industry decided to adapt digitize to prevent ambiguity.

Originally, Document Management Systems were primarily intended for documents management, but were later extended to accommodate other type of files.

By then, File Management System was already a popular term in software engineering for the scheme (like FAT32, HFS, etc.) used by the operating systems to store files on a drive. So the term was reserved.

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Document is a mean for fixing some information to bring it across time and space. The physical mean for holding document can vary: from stones to bits.

File is established term for the pice of information, which is the essence of a document, in a computer world. Indeed, the document exists within computer file.

In the broad sense, both file and document terms can be used interchangeable. When somebody tells file (document), the context explains, whether he meant file as element of a file system ("Copy the file (document) on the USB stick") or content ("You should change the file (document)").

So probably it is not a problem for the DMS users.

Also the DMS software uses platform specific user interface. In your example Internet Explorer runs system dialog. So even if you want, the (easy) changes are impossible.

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  • I agree with the general spirit. Thought to point out that if you are very picky, you wouldn't consider an application file to be any kind of a document (specifically considering application packages - like on a Mac). – Izhaki Oct 25 '13 at 11:28
  • @Izhaki Prom DMS point, an application IS a document, having executable format, see the image in a start post. In wide sense an application is a document, which contains data and instructions (a kind of data). – Alexey Kolchenko Oct 25 '13 at 11:38

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