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 extensionFile type nameUsed by
.doc97-2003 Word DocumentMicrosoft Word
.docxWord Document2006 and newer Microsoft Word
.odtOpen Office DocumentApache Open Office Writer
.txtPlain Text FileAll word processing applications
.pagesPages DocumentApple Pages

Image files

File extensionFile type nameUsed for
.jpgJoint Photographic Experts GroupLossy compression of digital images. JPEG compression can be adjusted towards smaller file size or better image quality
.gifGraphics Interchange FormatSimpler 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.
.pngPortable Network GraphicsLossless 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 extensionFile type nameUsed for
.mp3This 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.
.wavWaveform Audio File FormatUncompressed digital audio. WAV files can be compressed but are commonly used for uncompressed audio to store maximum audio quality.
.wmaWindows Media AudioLossless data compression of digital audio. WMA compresses digital audio files without loss of quality.
.flacFree Lossless Audio CodecLossless data compression of digital audio. FLAC is an open format that can compress to 50-70% of the original file size.

Video files

File extensionFile type nameUsed for
.mp4MPEG-4Storing digital video and audio. It can also store subtitles and still images, as well as stream content from online.
.aviAudio Video InterleaveStoring 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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