A collection of digital data.
Files come in a variety of types, including documents, audio, video and images. You can usually identify the type of file from its file extension. For instance, if a file is named DSC0123.jpg, the “.jpg” indicates that it is an image file. The type of file will determine how it can be opened and utilized on a computer. For instance, audio files require an appropriate media player to listen to, while executable files do not require another program to open.
Also See: Binary File, Executable File
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I open any file on my computer?
With the exception of executable files, in order to open any file on your computer you need an appropriate program to open it with. Most devices come equipped to handle the most popular file types, such as text documents, MP3 music files, and commonly used image files. However, some files are proprietary, meaning they can only be viewed using the program that created them. For instance, a QuickTime movie file can only be opened if you install Apple QuickTime on your device. Other files can be opened by a variety of programs, but are best managed from their originating program. For instance, many programs are now capable of reading PDF files, but Adobe Acrobat remains the most reliable program for reading and modifying these files.
In some cases, files can only be opened on a specific operating system. This is particularly true of executable files. Windows uses EXE files, while Android uses APK files. You cannot open a Windows executable file on an Android device, and vice versa. Other file types may require programs that are only available on a specific platform.
Is there any way to open a file I don’t have the appropriate program for?
Some files can be opened by multiple programs. For instance, a Word document can be opened by most text editors. Some are capable of opening them perfectly, while in other cases you may wind up with lots of unusual characters mixed in with your original text. These are formatting characters which Word creates to tell itself how the text should appear on the screen. If you simply need to recover the text from within the original document, this method may work, though it will take considerably more effort than finding a computer with Word installed. In general, it is best to stick to a file’s dedicated program.
What if I don’t know the appropriate program for a file?
Your computer or mobile device may know the appropriate program for you, or at the very least recommend some. Double-click on the file and try your device’s recommendations. If none work, your best bet is to do a web search for the file extension. If you have a file named “coolvideo.ra, doing a web search for “.ra” or “RA file” will give you several results for RA File Extensions, from which you would learn that .ra is the extension for Real Audio files, which require RealPlayer to open.