Restricting File Types in Canvas Assignments

Do you want to restrict the types of files that students submit for an assignment? You can do this through the Restrict Upload File Types option in the assignment's settings.

These instructions are for an existing assignment in Canvas. If you need help creating an assignment, here's a helpful guide to creating Canvas assignments.

  1. Make sure that the Submission Type for your Assignment is set to Online. Choosing Online from the drop-down menu will give you a series of options including File Uploads.

  2. Check off File Uploads. A Restrict Upload File Types option appears.

  3. Check off Restrict Upload File Types. A text entry field will appear where you can type in Allowed File Extensions:

    Screenshot showing Submission Type as online with File Uploads and Restrict Upload File Types checked

  4. Type in whatever file types you wish to ALLOW. Separate multiple extensions with a comma. Spaces, caps, and periods in between each extension are allowed. (So if you want only .doc and .pdf—you could type in: doc, pdf.)

If a student attempts to upload an incorrect file type, Canvas gives a warning that the specific file type they are attempting to upload is not allowed and will specify which file types are allowed.

Worried you don't know which file types to allow?

Here's a basic rundown of the most common word editor file types:

  • .pdf - Portable Document Format. PDF's are great because they can be read across different operating systems, and the format will stay the same. PDF's are always a safe bet if you are sending a document to someone and you have no idea what kind of word processor they use!
  • .doc - Microsoft Word Document. Doc's are another safe bet for sharing a document across different platforms. The older more universal standard of Microsoft Word, it has fallen a bit by the wayside with the release of .docx
  • .docx - Office Open XML document. The recent default when saving a Word document, .docx is Microsoft looking to make their product more standard with the rest of the world—that is to say, you can read it across different software platforms.
  • .pages - Apple iWork Pages document. Apple's answer to Word, Pages is word editing software that is restricted to Mac operating systems only. Whereas you can use Word on both a Windows and an Apple computer, you cannot use Pages on Windows. Anyone using Pages in college should probably learn how to export to .docx or .pdf to ensure that others can open it.
  • .txt - Plaintext file. Exactly what it sounds like. There is little to no formatting with .txt files. And they can be read almost universally by any software or operating system.
  • .rtf - Rich Text Format. Think a step up from .txt, .rtf is also a file type that is widely accessible.
  • .odt (.odf) - OpenDocument. You've probably heard rumblings about Web Standardization and Open Source. This is more or less a child of that effort. If you or your students are savvy enough to get a product like OpenOffice (think a free, slightly more basic Word), they will probably know not to try to upload .odt files—but just in case they don't know, OpenOffice does allow one to export files as doc, docx, pdf, etc 
  • .html - HyperText Markup Language. The language of the Internet! (Basically the backend of any website.) Students probably won't be ever submitting this kind of file unless you are having them create websites and want to make sure they are closing their tags.


If you want to use SpeedGrader in Canvas to preview student submissions and make inline comments, you should stick with doc, docx, and pdf documents.

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