What are file extensions?
File extensions are unnoticed yet are very crucial parts of the computer world. But many are still unaware of the basic foundation and principles behind the remarkable wonders of computers.
Computers are run by programs coded to perform specific tasks. These tasks are usually performed on some data (word document, image, spreadsheet, etc) and data is usually stored in files with file extension specific to the data type. Let's take a look at what are file extensions and the important role they play in the world of computers. Because of the abundance of software applications available today, some companies are using similar file extension but files created by them may be totally different from each other.
Every file on a computer has a source were it was created. For Microsoft Word Documents, these files are created using the Microsoft Word application software. When saving these documents, you are asked to provide a filename for it. But what some may be unaware of is that there is a corresponding marker added for this specific document at the end of the filename. These markers are file extensions. And for Microsoft Word Documents, these files are associated with the .doc file extension.
Now what exactly are file extensions and how are they helping us? As we have said, file extensions are the markers inform us and the computer what source application specific files these are associated with. Mostly, these are combinations or abbreviations designed by the developer of the application which created the file. File extensions associate that file to the source or similar application. Most file extensions are in a form of two, three, and four letters. Examples are: *.pf for Microsoft Prefetch files, *.doc for Microsoft Word Document, and *.html for Static Web Pages we see over the Internet. To give you a hint, these are added to the filename after the dot (.) sign. Filename extensions allow operating systems to determine the type of file and assign applications able to render these files.
File extensions help computers locate correct application for specific files. Operating systems will not look into the content of the files to be opened, but instead, it will immediate locate the file extension of the file and locate for associated application that can render the files. This helps the computer to organize its functions and work much faster. Most operating systems (Windows) require the use of file extensions, but others do not (Unix).
These file extensions are also beneficial for us. By simply looking at the filename, we can determine what type of information is stored to that and what applications can open these files. Have you noticed that when your computer acquires an unknown file, it will ask your permission to look for associated program to open it or look for these programs over the Internet? Yes! These file extensions make the work of the computer easy. Once there is no application associated with the file, then the computer will immediately ask the users assistance to help look for the source files.
Files can only be opened with applications similar to the one that was used to create the file. However, there are some exemptions. Earlier versions of Microsoft Word applications such as those released prior to the 2007 version are provided with the file extension *.doc and Microsoft Word 2007 documents are saved with file extensions *.docx which is an extended XML format of word documents. Though developed by the same company and with similar standards, earlier versions of Microsoft Word will not be able to open files with extensions *.docx unless provided with the compatibility software. However, backwards compatibility is mostly supported by newer software applications.
There are also several applications designed to execute and open files with different file extensions. A common example of these software applications are the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) applications. WYSIWYG?s are used to design web pages to be uploaded to the Internet. Examples of the type of software are Dream Weaver and Microsoft Frontpage. Now to take you deeper, WYSIWY?s can open files with different files name. If can open *.php, *.asp, *.html, *.jsp, and several other files extension associated with the web.
Without file extensions, some operating systems will be having problems in recognizing and organizing files. This is how important these file extensions are. For simple terms, file extensions are the connectors of a specific file to an application that can render the file. They serve as the distinct identity of the file. Thus, naming a file with ?test.doc? will not create a conflict with another file labeled ?test.odt? even if they have similar filenames.