File Extensions Explained

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File Extensions Explained

A file extension is also referred to as a filename extension or a file suffix is actually a character or a cluster of characters after the period that constitutes the entire name of the file.

The file gives an indication to an operating system such as a Mac OS or Windows to determine the program to which a certain file is associated.

For instance, the file fileextension.docx ends in docx. This is a file extension that relates the file to Microsoft Word installed on your computer.

When a user makes an attempt to open this file, the operating system makes a note that the file ends in the extension DOCX which it already knows is associated with Microsoft Word.

More often than not, file extensions tend to indicate the format or type of the file. The extension of any file can be modified but that will not convert the file into another format or modify anything with regard to the file other than the segment of its name.

File extensions and file formats

File extensions and file formats are typically considered interchangeable. Actually, file extension are the characters after the period while the format of the file is concerned in the way data is organized in a file. Simply put, file format indicates the type of the file.

For instance, in the file name explained.csv, CSV is the extension and so we know that this is a CSV file. You can easily rename this file to explained.mp3 but that will not render the file compatible with your media player.

The file will remain as a collection of rows of text (CSV) instead of becoming compressed musical recording (MP3).

Modifying a program that opens a file

As discussed above, file extensions tend to assist the operating system, whether Mac OS, Windows, Linux or any other system for that matter to distinguish between the different types of files and figure out the program that will be used to launch them. That program is responsible for opening up the files directly when you double click them.

A large number of file extensions many of which are commonly used by image, video and audio files are supported by multiple programs installed on your computer.

Having said that, most of the operating systems allow only a single program to open a file directly. In most versions of Windows, this setting can be configured in the Control Panel.

If you have not done this before, then this tutorial will provide you in-depth insight into the entire process of changing a default program for specific file extensions.

Conversion of files between different formats

As discussed above, renaming a file does not change its type despite the fact that the operating system begins to show the icon associated with the new file extension.

In order to convert a file from one format to another, a program is required that is compatible with both the file types and a software that has been specifically designed to convert one file format to another.

For instance, let us assume that you have an image file with SRF extension downloaded from your Sony digital camera but you want to upload it to a website that would allow only images in JPEG format to be uploaded.

You can rename the file from image.srf to image.jpeg but the file will remain unchanged in spite of having a different name.

In order to convert the SRF file into a JPEG image file, you will require a tool that is supported by both formats so that you can open the SRF file and then export it into JPG/JPEG format. Here, Adobe Photoshop is a great example of a software that can accomplish this task with tremendous ease.

If you do not have a software that is compatible with both the file types, there are tons of file conversion programs available that you can choose from. Here is an exhaustive list of free file convertor programs.

EXE File Extensions

Some files extensions are executable which means that once you click on them, instead of being opened for viewing or playing purposes, they initiate a certain process such as installing a program or following a certain set of pre-programmed instructions.

Since files with these extensions have the native ability to do lots of things directly to your computer, you have to remain cautious while receiving such a file from an untrustworthy source.

Here is a list of executable file extensions that will guide you and assist you in staying circumspect.

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