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A file is a collection of data stored in one unit, identified by a filename. It can be a document, picture, audio or video stream, data library, application, or other collection of data. The following is a brief description of each file type.
Documents include text files, such as a Word documents, RTF (Rich Text Format) documents, PDFs, Web pages, and others. Pictures include JPEGs, GIFs, BMPs, and layered image files, such as Photoshop documents (PSDs). Audio files include MP3s, AACs, WAVs, AIFs, and several others. Video files can be encoded in MPEG, MOV, WMV, or DV formats, just to name a few.
A library file is a unit of data that is referenced by a specific program or the operating system itself. These include plug-ins, components, scripts, and many others. An application is a program, or executable file. Programs such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple iTunes are both applications, but are also files.
Files can be opened, saved, deleted, and moved to different folders. They can also be transferred across network connections or downloaded from the Internet. A file's type can be determined by viewing the file's icon or by reading the file extension. If the file type is associated with a specific application, double-clicking the file will typically open the file within the program.
A file extension is the suffix at the end of a filename indicating what type of file it is. For example, in the filename "myreport.txt," the part after the dot ("txt") is the file extension. It indicates the file is a text document. Some other examples include "Document1.doc," which is a Microsoft Word document, and "Image.psd," which is a Photoshop document.
While most file extensions are three characters in length, they can be anywhere from one to five characters long. The extension tells the computer's operating system what program it should use to open the file. It also helps the user see what kind of file a certain document is by just looking at the filename. Both Windows and Mac OS X allow users to change file extensions, which can change the program the computer uses to open the file. While this may work for some files, it can also cause the file to not open at all. For example, if you change a file with a .txt extension to a .doc extension, Microsoft Word should open it. However, if you change a .txt file to a .psd file, Photoshop will not recognize the file type.
Because there are literally tens of thousands of file extensions, it is impossible to remember all of them. However, it is helpful to know some of the more common ones, such as .txt, .jpg, .gif, .zip, etc.
A filename is a text string that identifies a file. Every file stored on a computer's hard disk has a filename that helps identify the file within a given folder. Therefore, each file within a specific folder must have a different filename, while files in different folders can have the same name.
Filenames may contain letters, numbers, and other characters. Depending on the operating system, certain characters cannot be used since they conflict with operators or other syntax used by the operating system. Different operating systems also have different limits for the number of characters a filename can have. While older operating systems limited filenames to only 8 or 16 characters, newer OS's allow filenames to be as long as 256 characters. Of course, for most practical purposes, 16 characters is usually enough.
Filenames also usually include a file extension, which identifies the type of file. The file extension is also called the "filename suffix" since it is appended to the filename, following a dot or period. For example, a Microsoft Word document may be named "document1.doc." While technically the filename in the preceding example is "document1" and "doc" is the extension, it is also acceptable to refer to "document1.doc" as the filename. In some cases, the filename may even refer to the file's directory location, i.e. ("\My Documents\School Papers\document1.doc").
You can name a file by clicking on the file's icon or filename, waiting for a second, then clicking on the filename again. As long as the file is not locked, the filename will become highlighted, and you can type a new name for the file. You can also name a file the first time you save it from a program or by selecting "Save As..." from the program's File menu.