In the last lesson, you learnt how to find information online. In this lesson you’ll learn how to store your information safely, both online and off.

We suggest you take our ‘Finding information online’ lesson first, if you haven’t already.


  • Manage your files and access them from any device
  • Use tools to create safe back-ups
  • Save and manage files, online and off

Read time:

15 mins

Chapter 1

Saving and accessing documents

Read time:

7 mins

What are documents and files?

Even if the online world is new to you, you may already use documents and files offline. You may even be creating files of your own, like taking a picture or writing a letter. And there’s a good chance you’re already storing them in files and folders.

You’ll also see these terms online - they mean the same thing. Documents and files can include information, e.g., words, images, videos, sounds or information your device needs to work. But you can use both terms, ‘document’ or ‘file’, to describe what’s stored on your device.


The main types of documents/files are:

  • Word documents – Usually text-based documents like reports, letters and CVs
  • Spreadsheets – These involve numbers and data. We often use them for analysis and creating charts
  • Presentations – Often called ‘slide decks’ or ‘packs’. You can use these to share things in a visual way, like on a screen
  • Emails – These are written messages sent online from person to person, like an electronic version of mail. You can also send files this way
  • Pictures – These can be photos or digital artwork. You can upload images from a digital camera or straight from your device. If you want to create artwork, you can download specific software
  • Audio – Audio files can be anything from voice memos to music tracks or podcasts
  • Videos – Like photos, you can upload videos from your camera or take them directly from a device with a camera. Editing software helps you change and edit your videos


Creating your own documents

To create a document, you need the right software, app or program installed on your device. Most devices will have an app store where you can find lots of programs to suit your needs. You can search for apps and ‘download’ them directly to your device.

Some applications and software will be on your device when you buy it. It’s worth checking what you’ve already got, before you download anything new.

Another way to download software is to search for what you’re after, using a search engine. For example, if you want software to help you draw on your tablet, search for ‘drawing software’. If you know the name of the application, you can search for it directly.

Once you’ve downloaded the application, it should appear on the menu or home screen. Most devices let you search your documents and software. If you’re not sure how to do this, check your device’s instructions.

Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, click or tap to open it, depending on the device you’re using. Next, look for a ‘New document’ button to create something new, or select ‘Open’ to open an existing document.


How to create or open a document:

Step 1

Download application

Step 2

Open application

Step 3

Create or open document

Saving your documents

Once you’ve created and made changes to a document, save your work. It’s a good idea to save it often, in case there’s an issue with your device or you lose power. If you don't save it, you could risk losing what you’re working on.


How to save a document:

  1. Go to the top left of the document and select ‘File’ then ‘Save as…’
  2. Pick a ‘folder’ to save the document in
  3. Save the document with a ‘file name’ you can recognise
  4. Continue to save your work regularly using the ‘save’ button


Finding your documents

Once you’ve saved a file, there’s a few ways to access it. You could use your device’s search function and search for the name of the file. If you’re not sure of its name, here’s more ways to find a file.


Open files using ‘File explorer’, ‘Documents’, ‘Files’ or ‘Finder’

The name of the application that stores your files will depend on your device. So check your device’s instructions, if you’re not sure. Usually, it will be one of the names we’ve listed here. Once you find this, you can open it and find your files in there.


Open files straight from your programs/apps

If you want to open a file and you’re already in the right software, select ‘File’ then ‘Open Recent’. Or select ‘File’ then ‘Open’ and a pop-up window will appear with everything in that program.

Please note, the program will only open files used with that software. For example, Microsoft Word opens Word documents, PowerPoint opens presentation files and Excel opens spreadsheets.

You can work out the type of file by looking at the ‘file extension’. This is the letters that appear after a full stop, e.g. ‘.docx’. These let your device know which program to open the document in. You’ll see these letters or the type of file at the end of your file name or in your documents list.


Which programs open what file?

  • Word documents – These usually open in Microsoft Word and have the file extensions ‘.doc’ or ‘.docx’
  • Spreadsheets – Excel opens these, and they have the file extensions ‘.XLR’, ‘.XLS’ or ‘.XLSX’
  • Presentations – The PowerPoint program opens these. Their file extensions are ‘.PPT’, or ‘.PPTX’
  • Pictures – You can open these from ‘Photos’, ‘Picture viewer’ or ‘Preview’. File extensions include ‘.JPEG’ and ‘.PNG’
  • Audio – Use Windows Media Player or QuickTime Player to open these. Their file extensions include ‘.MP3’ and ‘.WAV’
  • Videos – Windows Media Player or QuickTime Player can open these. They have file extensions ‘.MOV’ or ‘.MP4’


You don't need to memorise these, but it can help early on, as you learn how to open your files.

  • Word documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Video files
  • Audio
  • Pictures


Arranging your documents into folders

Finding files on your device can be a lot easier if you arrange them well. Just like how you’d sort your papers into folders at home to keep them neat. On your device, you can sort your files into ‘Folders’. This makes it much easier to find a file when you next want to open it.

Once you’re in the application where you keep your files, you can usually create a folder by selecting ‘File’ and then ‘New folder’. On some devices, you can right-click where you want to create a folder then select ‘New folder’.

Try and name the new folders yourself - this makes them easy to find. You can also have sub-folders to make sure things stay neat. For example, you might have a folder called ‘Admin’. Under this, there could be sub-folders called ‘Health’, ‘Finances’ and ‘House’ to help you manage your life admin.

Look at the instructions for your device and find a system for sorting your files that works for you.

Chapter 2

Creating back-ups

Read time:

2 mins

What’s a back-up?

In the first chapter, we talked a lot about the kinds of information you might keep on your device. Whether it’s your family photos, work, or finance records. You don’t want to risk losing this, if you lose or damage your device.

To avoid this, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a second and separate copy of your files. We also call this ‘having a back-up’. As we cover in some of our other lessons, you can create online and offline back-ups.


Offline back-ups

Offline back-ups are when you use external devices like ‘hard drives’ and ‘USBs’ to store your files separately. The great thing about this is that they’re offline and yours to control. The downside is that each hard-drive or USB only has a certain amount of storage space. They can also be damaged, lost, or stolen.

You may think you’re unlikely to lose both your device and your physical offline back-up. But it can and does happen. All it takes is the loss of your rucksack or one spilled drink to lose the files that are most important to you.


Online back-ups

Your other option is to back-up your files online. You might know it as ‘saving to the Cloud’. When you back up online, you ‘hire’ storage from a company. Just like you can connect with a friend online, you can connect to a company’s storage through the internet and get your files straight away.

One thing to consider is that you’ll be placing your trust in a company’s systems. That means safety is out of your control. But a large company will usually give more protection, as they’re able to put far more money into keeping things safe than you could.

This isn't the only benefit of storing your files online. It can also let you access your files from anywhere. Let’s take a closer look at this in our next chapter.


Remember, whatever type of back-up you go for, it’s a good idea to back-up regularly. This cuts the risk of losing your files.

Chapter 3

Accessing documents from anywhere

Read time:

6 mins

The benefit of accessing files from anywhere

Storing your files online brings you many benefits. It can also let you use your devices more quickly and easily than you could offline. Let’s take a closer look at some of those benefits.


Access your files on multiple devices

When you save your files online, you can easily switch between devices, without having to plug in a hard drive or USB. This is a great advantage if you want to use different devices to access all of your files.


Access your files on the move

When you can access files from multiple devices seamlessly, you can work flexibly and on the move. So, whether you’re on a friend’s laptop, your mobile on the train or your computer at home, you’ll have the files you need, wherever you are.


Work with others

If you want, you can even work with other people on a file at the same time. For example, you might have a list of family chores. Everyone in your family could have access to this file, so they can tick off chores or add to the list. You could also work on files with your friends or people you work with.


Instantly back-up files

We’ve discussed the importance of back-ups, but having a tool that can do all the hard work for you can be very handy. This software constantly saves and backs up your work. So you’re less likely to lose the files and things that matter to you.


Finding the right online storage provider

There are plenty of different companies offering ways to save your work online.

There’s no real right or wrong, just right or wrong for you. So, you need to explore the products online and make a choice that’s right for you.



Google has built this as an add-on to their products. So, you might use Google Chrome as your browser, Google as your search engine, and Google Gmail too. If this sounds like you, then buying online storage with Google might be the best approach. Google include a set amount of storage with any of their accounts.


Microsoft offers a similar approach with their document creating apps. Most of their subscriptions include some online storage too. So, if you’re going to use Microsoft apps to create documents anyway, it might make sense for you to use the storage they offer.

Other companies

There are plenty of other companies who offer their own services. These include phone providers like BT, and shopping or entertainment chains like Amazon. Others, like Dropbox, focus purely on online storage.

But most importantly, now you know what Cloud storage is, you can look for more information online. And when you see it being offered somewhere, you’ll know what it is and if you want it.


Keeping your information safe

When you’re deciding who to share data with, or which companies to use, think about the safety of your information. You should always stopchallenge, and protect.

This means you should stop what you’re doing. Take a moment to ask ask why the company needs the data they’re asking for. Make sure you are happy with how they’ll protect it.

Do you feel worried about passwords and keeping safe online? We suggest you take our lesson ‘Introduction to online safety’ next , if you haven’t already. You can find the link at the end of this lesson.


Take a moment to stop and think before you do anything with your finances or personal details.


If it seems too good to be true, it’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you


Contact your bank straight away if you think you've fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud

Should I save locally or online?

By now, you might be wondering which to pick - online or offline back-ups? So, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of each and what you should consider.


The benefits of saving locally:

  • You have control over your own files
  • Once you’ve paid for your storage devices, there’s no extra cost, unless you run out of space and need to buy a new one.


Things to consider if using a USB or hard drive:

  • Someone could steal it and access your files
  • If it’s damaged or lost, you could lose your files
  • You’ll have to remember what’s on each USB or hard drive. You might have a few if you have lots of files
  • You need to remember to regularly back-up your files and you have to do it manually
  • You’ll have to plug and unplug it to be able to work on different devices and not all USBs and hard drives will work on every device. For example, your hard drive might work on your laptop but not your mobile
  • You can’t work on documents with other people at the same time


The benefits of saving online:

  • The company you use can invest a lot in data security
  • You won’t lose or damage your back-up
  • All your files are in one place
  • You can automatically schedule back-ups without having to do anything yourself
  • You can easily add more storage if you need it
  • You can work on two or more devices
  • You can work with other people at the same time


Things to consider:

  • Your information and files are held by the company, so you need to trust that company
  • There’s an extra cost if you need more storage
  • It relies on the internet – so it might be slow if your internet is slow

Test your knowledge

Answer this question by selecting one answer from the three options provided.

That's not quite right!

Remember, for someone else to access a file, you needs to store it where they can get to it easily.

That's right!

Saving files online means you can work with other people at the same time.

Lesson complete!

Well done on completing this lesson. You should now know how to get at your files online and off. We suggest you continue your learning with the next lesson in ‘Looking after your personal information’ will help you keep your personal details safe online. So you can safely use the internet to search, post and shop.


Up next for you:

Next lesson: Looking after your personal information
Back to: Get started online


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 8th November 2023.