Working with files

Aims and objectives

This module will:

  • provide guidance and information on managing data and how this can impact and support your studies
  • explore the importance of metadata in the digital world
  • examine tools to improve productivity

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • identify various file types and distinguish their usage
  • apply file management conventions, such as folder structure and version control
  • create storage and backup plans

6. File formats and saving

Most software saves files in a default file format. However, quite often you have the power to save in a different file format. Why would you want to do this? You may need to upload something in a required format or may need to open the file in another piece of software to work on it. For instance, Microsoft Word 2003 won’t open .docx files. Despite there being several updates to Word since 2003, you can still come across some computers that only have 2003 version of Office installed.

A lot of file types started out as proprietary and therefore only certain applications would support that file type. As technology has developed those restrictions have reduced, allowing a lot more choice in which application can be used. Most word processing software can open any text file type that you come across.

The main difference between file types is how or if they compress the data. Compression is the act of trying to reduce the size of a file. There are two types of compression lossless and lossy.

There are a lot of file types. FileInfo is a website that keeps a record and definition of almost every file type. Here is a selection of common file types you might come across while studying.

Text files

File extension File type name Used by
.doc 97-2003 Word Document Microsoft Word
.docx Word Document 2006 and newer Microsoft Word
.odt Open Office Document Apache Open Office Writer
.txt Plain Text File All word processing applications
.pages Pages Document Apple Pages

Image files

File extension File type name Used for
.jpg Joint Photographic Experts Group Lossy compression of digital images. JPEG compression can be adjusted towards smaller file size or better image quality
.gif Graphics Interchange Format Simpler digital images that do not require large colour palletes, such as logos. GIF supports 256 colours. It is mostly used for creating animated digital images.
.png Portable Network Graphics Lossless compression of digital images. PNG is a raster graphics file format, which means it does not lose quality, or cause pixelation, when the image size is increased or decreased.

Audio files

File extension File type name Used for
.mp3 This is the third audio format of the Moving Picture Experts Group-1 (MPEG-1) standard (formally MPEG-1 Audio Layer III & MPEG-2 Audio Layer III) Lossy data compression of digital audio. MP3 compression reduces components of a sound file that are beyond the hearing capabilities of humans.
.wav Waveform Audio File Format Uncompressed digital audio. WAV files can be compressed but are commonly used for uncompressed audio to store maximum audio quality.
.wma Windows Media Audio Lossless data compression of digital audio. WMA compresses digital audio files without loss of quality.
.flac Free Lossless Audio Codec Lossless data compression of digital audio. FLAC is an open format that can compress to 50-70% of the original file size.

Video files

File extension File type name Used for
.mp4 MPEG-4 Storing digital video and audio. It can also store subtitles and still images, as well as stream content from online.
.avi Audio Video Interleave Storing digital video and audio. Created by Microsoft, it can also store subtitles and still images, as well as stream content from online.

Duration:   Approximately 20 minutes


Graduate attributes

Knowledge and skills you can gain to contribute to your Graduate attributes:

 Independence and creativity

 Critical judgement


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