Soft copy

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A soft copy is the unprinted digital document file, often contrasted with hard copy. A soft copy of a document can usually be viewed through use of an appropriate editing program, such as word processing programs, database programs, or presentation software, depending on the file type.

See hard copy for information about printed documents.


Soft copy documents have the advantage of portability and ease of manipulation over hard copy documents. Because they are stored in a digital medium, soft copies are easily duplicated and/or transferred between users over distances through file transfer/downloading mechanisms such as FTP or HTTP, as an email attachment, or through USB drives and other disk drives. As digital documents, they can be backed up by a variety of means to protect against the eventualities of document deletion or medium destruction. Additionally, multiple copies of the same document can be kept in different versions, allowing a user backtrack to an earlier version.

Using soft copies of working documents rather than traditional printed documents eliminates the need for paper and ink. As documents scale, soft copies also offer an advantage in size, as many thousands of soft copy pages can be stored on a single portable storage medium. Were these pages printed, they would be considerably more bulky than modern digital storage media.

Unlike hard copies, in which ink permanently dyes the media on which it is applied to (or is permanently adhered in the case of toner), soft copies are stored in a mutable digital medium, and so can be easily edited or changed under most normal circumstances.


Due to their inherent ease of manipulation, soft copy documents are not well suited to presenting information or record that is not to be changed. Birth certificates, social security cards, and business licenses are examples of documents that are not issued as soft copies, as they must remain unchanged once they are distributed.

Without special input hardware, it is difficult to transfer direct physical input (such as a signature) to a soft copy document.

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  1. ^ Headquarters, Corporate. "Pages per Gigabyte" (PDF). Pages_per_Gigabyte.pdf. SETEC Investigations. Retrieved 28 June 2016.