Help with Download Documents
The Adobe Acrobat PDF file format is standard for both PC and Apple Mac computers, and you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent) software in order to view the documents. This software can be downloaded for free from the Adobe web site.
When you click on a 'PDF' file, a single document will be downloaded to your computer, or may open in your web browser window if you have an Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent) plug-in installed. This file will have ".pdf" at the end of its name.
Adobe Acrobat files can be printed out very easily, but are not usually easy to edit (unless you're the one who created them to begin with).
If you have an Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent) plug-in installed in the your web browser software, then 'clicking' on a PDF download document will probably result in it opening in your web browser window. If you would rather download the file to your computer for future use, use your right mouse button (instead of the left) when you 'click' - this should bring up a menu which will allow you to choose "Save Target As..." (or something similar).
When you click on a Microsoft Word or PowerPoint download, a single 'ZIP' file will be downloaded to your computer. This file contains the actual Microsoft Word (.doc) or PowerPoint (.ppt) documents in a compressed form so that they download more quickly and with less likelihood of corruption.
The ZIP compression method is a standard format for both PC and Apple Mac computers, and the ZIP file needs to be uncompressed (unzipped) before the documents can be used. Many tools are available to do this, and can be found on most computer magazine cover disks. A freeware tool called 'Stuffit Expander' is available to download for both PCs and Macs from Aladdin Systems.
When you print out a downloaded document it might not look as you expect (e.g. page numbers might not match content lists, tables or images may get 'cropped', etc.). This is usually due to the fact that printer specifications, fonts and software settings vary between different computer systems. You may need to adjust the documents a little yourself in order to get them to print out nicely!
This problem is much less likely to occur with the Adobe Acrobat PDF documents, which are designed to be flexible enough to avoid this issue.
It should not matter what platform you use as long as you've got reasonably up to date versions of the software appropriate for each file type (Adobe Acrobat Reader for .pdf files, Microsoft Word for .doc files, etc.).
If you are unable to download a document (particularly a ZIP file) at all, it may be because it is being blocked by a "firewall" i.e. software which protects your computer from actions which might cause it harm. ZIP files are sometimes considered a security risk because they could, for instance, be used to transmit computer viruses. This inability to download due to firewall protection is especially likely if you are connecting to the internet on a computer which is part of a large organisation's network. The only way around this is to persuade whoever looks after your computer systems to allow access through the firewall.
Another possibility is that you are trying to download a very large file using a 56k modem (rather than a broadband internet connection) and that the connection fails before the download is complete. The file sizes are provided for each download document to give you a rough idea of how long it may take to download. A 5MB file might take a minute or two to download using a broadband Internet connection, but may take up to half an hour using a 56k modem! The best solution is to try downloading at times when the internet is likely to be 'quiet' (e.g. first thing in the morning when America is asleep and people in the UK are only just getting up/going to work).