Every so often I'll hop on my laptop, open google, and eventually try to download and open some document, only for the document to wind up looking like this: enter image description here

What on earth does all this mean? What language is it, and why does it pop up instead of normally formatted English?

Also, if it isn't already obvious, I have zero technical experience with software and have no idea what sort of jargon I would use to even ask this question properly. Please keep in mind that I'm just a schlub who wants to know what this means.


Usually, that type of corrupt rendering is caused by trying to open a document in software it wasn't meant for. For instance, if you try to open a Word document (.doc) in Notepad, you'll often get something like that.

If you got this document from the internet, it's probably a pdf. Adobe Acrobat Reader is your best bet for reading this type of document. If your computer doesn't come preinstalled with it, you can download it for free from here.

If it isn't a pdf, you might need other software.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's a file format based on zip archiving, which includes zip archives, but also xlsx and pptx files, for example. And JAR files. And lots more. The PK at the beginning is a good hint. PDF files start %PDF. $\endgroup$ – rici Aug 2 '20 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @rici Good spot - I had assumed the screenshot was cut off at the top so I didn't think to look for header bytes. That means it's not technically mojibake, since that term implies a character encoding mismatch, as opposed to bytes that were never meant to be interpreted as text at all. $\endgroup$ – Aaron Rotenberg Aug 2 '20 at 21:12

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