Arches. Photo by Daniel Chia
HOPES: Huntington's Outreach Project for Education, at Stanford

Media Files: Downloading vs. Direct Viewing

When dealing with media files (such as video or audio files) or large document files (such as pdfs or docs), there are basically 2 options available:

HOPES will usually make a recommendation on which option is best for a particular set of files. However, both options are usually available and the choice is really up to you and your preference!

1) Downloading files

Downloading files saves a copy of the file onto your computer so you can view it later on your own, even when you are away from the internet. In addition, for users using a slower dial-up (modem) internet connection, downloading large files may be especially useful, because a dialog box should always appear that gives information on the status of the download (% completed, estimated time left, etc.).

To download a particular file, right-click on the appropriate link. A menu will appear with several options. Select "Save Target As" (in Internet Explorer) or "Save Link Target As" (in Netscape Navigator or Mozilla). Note that while these images show the downloading process for Internet Explorer, similar menus and dialog boxes will appear in Navigator or Mozilla.


A "Save As" dialog box will then appear. Choose the location in which you would like to save your file. Make sure that it is a location that you will remember and that is easy to locate. Type in your own filename or reuse the one we've offered, and then click "Save".

The next dialog box appears while the file is being downloaded. The progress bar and % Completed keep you updated on the downloading process. Most browsers give you some indication of the estimated time left for downloading, taking into account the file size and the speed of your internet connection, although it should be noted that this estimation is rough.

When the file is finished downloading, the % Completed changes to the following dialog box. You can then view the file immediately by clicking "Open". Click "Close" to close the dialog box and continue surfing.

2) Viewing Files Directly

In order to view media files directly in one's browser, the appropriate plug-in must be installed. Luckily, most programs that are designed for internet media (such as Macromedia Flash, Adobe Reader, QuickTime, Windows Media, etc.) will automatically install a plug-in into your browser.  In these cases, simply left-clicking on a link will allow a user to view the file directly in his or her browser window. (In cases where the appropriate plug-in is not installed, left-clicking a particular link will simply download the file in the same fashion as a user right-clicking a link. See above for a description of the downloading process.)

If neither of these options allow you to view the files correctly, you probably do not have the appropriate program installed. Click here for more information.