Jan 16, 2015

Quick Tip: File Extensions

Every digital file has an extension, the part of the file name that is after the period, that determines which program will open the file. This is commonly referred to as file type. At the bottom of this post is a Quizlet containing some of the most common file types. The extension appears on the front of the card; a brief description of the file type appears on the back.

Different programs can handle different file types. For example, if you try to open a PowerPoint file using Microsoft Word, you will either receive an error message or see pages of unreadable characters. Some software can read multiple file types -- for example Microsoft Word allows users to view and edit files originally created in older versions of Word, Open Office, plain text editors, and several others.

Default Programs
Programs can be set as the default for specific file types. For example, iTunes can be set as the default software for all audio files, including MP3, MP4, and WAV). If your default internet browser is Chrome, any desktop website shortcuts will automatically open in Chrome. To view your default settings in Windows, visit the "Change which programs Windows uses by default" on the Windows support site.

Converting Files, or Changing File Types
It is not possible to change a file type by renaming the extension (there are some rare exceptions, such as converting a text file to HTML). Use the editing software's "Save as" function to convert a file type when necessary.

Hidden Extensions?
Windows operating system hides file extension by default, forcing users to rely on their knowledge of program icons. To change this setting follow the steps found at the "Show or hide file name extensions page" on the Windows support site.