Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tech Tip Tuesday: Fundamental File Formats - Part 1

Understanding file formats today is not what it once was.  When computers first came on the scene there were a few conventions that were followed.  All files had a name, an eight character name with a 3 character extension.  Although this varied a little by Operating system, the very first Commodore 64 I used followed this and it didn't change until someone opened a Window.  Well not literally, but with the advent of the Graphical User Interface or GUI on the Mac and later with Windows the 8 character limit became less important, although if you looked at the files carefully you would see that the computer still truncated a longer file name to an 8 character version. What hasn't changed is extensions, although we often don't see them anymore.  Both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows now have the option of hiding the extension on known file types.  This can make it easier to quickly view files and simplify navigation, but if you have ever wondered: "How does my computer know how to open these files" Well it's all in the extensions.  The simple 3 characters after the period in a file name.  This is code for the computer. It tells the computer which little icon to display on the file and which program to use to open the file. Over the next few weeks we are going to explore some essential file types and what those extensions mean.

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