File Type


Before going on to a file format let’s first know what is a file? A file is a piece of information or data, stored by the user using unique file extensions. These file extensions are used to identify the type of file being stored so that it will be easy to differentiate files with same names. Each and every data stored in your hard drive will be stored in form of files with unique signatures. The operating system uses these signatures to optimize your search for a particular file.

File format is a standard way of representing and storing a file in your computer. These formats enable easy retrieval of files and specify how bits are used to encode information in a particular storage medium. Now let’s see what all the different types of files available are

Different types of Files:

Basic file types: Basic file types are classified into three categories namely Regular, Directory & Special

  • Regular Files: Regular files are common files used to store data either in text format or binary format.
    • Text files: Text files are files that contain data stored in human readable ASCII format text. It is possible to display and print these files.
    • Binary files: Binary files are regular files that stores data in computer readable form that is in binary format. Binary files are usually executable files and uses special compiling programs to convert ASCII text into binary code.
  • Directory Files: Directory files store information that is used by system to access all types of files. These files occupy less space than regular files and do not contain the actual file data. Each directory entry represents either a file or subdirectory. Directory entry contains filename, file’s i-node number (index node reference number). A i-node number holds the unique index number assigned to a file, which is used to describe the location of the data.
  • Special Files: Special files are temporary files created by the processes or they define devices for the system. There are three types of special files; FIFO (First –in-first-out), Block & Character files. Block and Character files defines devices whereas FIFO are files called pipes which are created by one process to allow communication with other process temporarily.

Media Files types: A Media file generally refers to audio files, video files & image files which are in a format that only network media player can play. All three are different formats but within those categories formats also vary as listed below.

  • Audio Files: Audio file format is a format that is used to store digital audio data on a computer system. Data can be stored either in compressed or uncompressed form, based on this they are classified into three groups.
    • Uncompressed audio formats: WAV, AIFF, raw header-less PCM or AU
    • Formats with lossless compression: FLAC, TTA, MPEG-4 SLS, MPEG-4 ALS, MPEG-4 DST, Monkey’s audio (file extension APE), WavPack (file extension WV), ATRAC Advanced Lossless, Apple Lossless (file extension m4a), Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA Lossless), and Shorten (SHN).
    • Formats with lossy compression: MP3, Vorbis, Musepack, AAC, ATRAC, and Windows Media Audio Lossy (WMA lossy).
  • Image Files: Image files are static data called photos which is stored in image file format. They are categorized into two groups; Photos and RAW photos.
    • Photos / Images: These image formats compress the files so that lot more photos can be saved in your storage device.
    • Ex: JPEG, JPG, TIFF, PNG, BMP, GIF, PSD, etc.

    • RAW photos: These image formats preserves the best quality of your photo as they won’t compress their files, because each pixel will retain its position.
    • Ex: CR2, CRW, NEF, ORF, MRW, 3FR, PEF, DNG, RAF, etc.

  • Video Files: Video files are in standard or high-definition formats which are used to store digital videos data in a computer system.
  • Ex: AVI, MP4, MOV, MPEG, MPG, M4V, 3G2, 3GP, RM, etc.