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File Format Explained and 5 Different File Types You Should Know!

Updated on Thursday, March 9, 2023

iBoysoft author Vain Rowe

Written by

Vain Rowe
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

A Basic Understanding of File Format and 5 Different File Types

Summary: File format is a standard manner that the information is encoded for storage in the computer. This article from iBoysoft guides you to know file formats from a comprehensive perspective and introduces to you 5 different file formats that you must be familiar with if you take a computer as your workstation. 

file format

In the information era of today, people are surrounded by kinds of files like image files, video files, audio files, word files, etc. You must be curious about that why there are so many files and how can't they be saved as one file format.

Take it easy, this article is going to answer your doubts by telling you what file format is. Moreover, 5 different file types' introductions are covered in this article. What are you hesitating for? Read this post right now!

Table of Contents:

A basic explanation of file format: what is it?

File format refers to the way that your information or data is encoded for storage work. It explains how bits are used to encode information in a digital storage medium.

Quite frankly, some file formats are free while others are proprietary. They are often published with specifications telling the encoding manner and enabling developers to test the expected functionality of certain programs. 

However, not all file type comes with an open-source specification document because some developers view it as a business secret, while others have no idea how to author a specification document because they have never done this sort of work.

No matter whether the file formats are free or paid, it has nothing to do with common users. All we need to do is learn a little bit about the working principle of file format.

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An overview introduction of filename extension

File type differentiates itself through a slew of various filename extensions. Filename extension indicates the suffix of a file when it is saved. The most widely used operating system, including macOS, Windows, VMS, DOX, and more, determines the format of a file based on its filename extension.

File names are limited to 8-character identifiers and a 3-character extension, known as the 8.3 filename. Let me show you some examples, HTML documents are identified by the extension .html or .htm, GIF images by .gif, PNG images by .png, and so on.

Although this 8.3 limitation is not clearly stated by loads of programs anymore, many formats still use this filename extension.

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5 common file types that you frequently 

Provided that you have an understanding of file format and filename extension already, now let's learn about 5 file types that we commonly used in our work or study on a computer.

1. DS_Store file

DS_Store (shortened for Desktop Services Store) files, the macOS version of Windows's desktop.ini files, are automatically created by Finder on local internal & external disks or remote file systems mounted from servers to store a folder's custom view preferences. 

For example, an icon's position, the chosen view option, the choice of a background image, the folder's window location & size, column sorting, and so on.

For Windows users, you can download Windows Notepad, WinRAR, Free File Viewer, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office to open DS_Store files. Alternatively, drag the file to a browser to open it.

For Mac users, you can right-click on the file, click Open With, then choose a proper application. If no compatible software is found, look for a free online DS_Store file opener.

2. MSG file

MSG file refers to a file format used by Microsoft Outlook, an information manager, available as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. A shared email, reminder, contact, appointment, or any other type of data stored in Outlook is sent as an MSG file(Message file).

The MSG format is unrecognizable by Mac, which is EML instead. So you have to install Windows on Mac or apply Outlook Web App to open an MSG file. 

3. Plist file

plist file is a setting file, also known as a property list file, used by macOS. It contains properties and configuration settings for various programs and bundles together with them. Property list files use the filename extension .plist and thus are often referred to as plist files.

Plist files are formatted in XML and are typically encoded using the Unicode UTF-8 encoding. The property files can be saved in text or binary format. Thus, to open and modify a plist file, you need a program that is supported to read binary and XML files.

4. 7z file

7z file is a compressed, or archive file in the .7z format, which is usually created using the 7-Zip application. Compared to ZIP or RAR, .7z is a relatively new compression file format. And its creator, Igor Pavlov says the creation of 7z is primarily to improve upon the compression used in ZIP and RAR.

5. FLV file

FLV file is a container file format used to deliver video content like TV shows, movies, and more over the internet by using Adobe Flash Player. It stores a short header, synchronized audio, video data streams (encoded in the same way as streams in the standard Flash.SWF file format), and metadata packets.

FLV file extension is an open format that is supported by kinds of non-Adobe programs. Users can create Flash Video content and then export it as an FLV file extension as long as they have Flash Video Exporter or other programs with FLV file support. 

Final thoughts

File types are common and ordinary but this article guides you further to figure out the definition of file format. Meanwhile, you can also have an overview of the filename extension real quick. Interested in this post? Read it now!

For more file types, please read: