form for preservation of structured and identified information

A document[1] (noun) is a piece of information that is used to communicate something. In the past it was usually a piece of paper that contained information written in ink, but documents are now often digital.

To document (verb) means to produce an object by collecting and representing information, and has a slightly different pronunciation.

Different sorts of documents


Everyday use


When one views a document, they can see the connotations and denotations that appear in a search for document. From these usages, readers can infer one or more of the following typical contexts:

  • Writing that provides information (especially information of an official nature)
  • Anything serving as a representation of a person's thinking by means of symbolic marks
  • A written certificate of ownership or obligation
  • To record in detail; "The parents documented every step of their child's development"
  • A digital file in a particular format
  • To support or supply with references; "Can you document your claims?"
  • An artifact that meets a legal notion of document for purposes of discovery in litigation

Document life cycle management


Technology to manage documents has developed with documents themselves. They include practices for preserving, archiving, destroying, and managing documents. These together are called the "document life cycle"

  • Physical preservation: Documents in traditional physical forms and in digital physical forms such as magnetic media must be physically preserved. This aspect of document management deals with such issues as the aging of paper (acid-free paper helps with preservation) and the obsolescence of media such as floppy disk or videotape.
  • Storage: This aspect includes management of limited resources such as shelf space and disk space, and optimal space utilization. Modern libraries often use complex space-saving technologies such as robotic retrieval systems for stacks and moving bookshelves. The whole field of data compression can be viewed as made for the storage of digital documents.
  • Cultural Preservation: This function, traditionally done by librarians involves the selection, arrangement and storage of documents in safe places. The importance of this part of document management can be seen in the impact of historical events like the burning of the Library of Alexandria. Today, library and information science has developed into an important academic job.
  • Bibliometrics: This aspect of document management involves functions of indexing, creating statistics and taxonomies, and improving the usability of large collections of documents. The modern history of this management technology dates back to Melvil Dewey and the Dewey Decimal System. Today, the science of bibliometrics is largely concerned with managing the impact of electronic technologies. This aspect must also deal with ISBN numbers, Library of Congress data and other standards.
  • Digital Content Management: The explosion of digital content has resulted in technologies being created to manage large collections of digital information generated by organizations. Such systems must manage access control and privileges, multiple electronic formats, interface with printing systems and enable collaborative workflows around documents.
  • Digital-Physical Interaction Management: As long as both paper and digital documents continue to be made and used, the modern management technologies to manage their interaction will continue. Key to this is the management of large scale and systematic scanning of physical documents (such as the Google book scanning project).
  • Destruction: With the increased cost of identity theft, corporate scandals and privacy concerns, the destruction of both paper and electronic documents has become increasingly important to manage. Technologies such as shredders play a role, as do verifiable ways to destroy electronic documents to ensure compliance with privacy laws.
  • Security: Shannon's information theory has led to an entire discipline that deals with the security of documents, and associated technologies such as encryption, as well as more physical security features such as watermarks and making currency documents that are safe from counterfeiting.
  • Transportation: The entire mail system, as well as modern courier systems, is largely built on the need to physically move documents from one location to another.

Software for document creation


Text editors



  1. Definition: a bounded physical representation of body of information designed with the capacity (and usually intent) to communicate
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