File Extensions – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter

For no reason, a baby dressed up as an elephant.

We are not talking about taxes here.  File extensions are the three or four letters that appear after the “.” on files.  .doc, .gif, and .pdf are a few examples of file extensions.

So what are they, and how can I open them?
  • Microsoft Office documents end in a variety of extensions, depending on the application and version you are using.
    • .doc and .docx are Microsoft Word documents for version 97-2003 and 2007, respectively.
    • .xls and .xlsx are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets  for version 97-2003 and 2007, respectively.
    • .ppt and .pptx are Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for version 97-2003 and 2007, respectively.  .pps files are PowerPoint Presentations that do not require the user to have PowerPoint installed.
    • Microsoft offers free converters and viewers for people that have older versions of Microsoft Office and want to open a file saved in the latest version.  You can check out those applications here.
  • The Adobe suite of products includes several graphics programs and the popular Acrobat program, that reads and creates .pdf files.
    • .pdf files are created with Adobe Acrobat.  Adobe Acrobat Reader is a free program that you can use to view PDF files.  You can download reader from Adobe’s website.
    • .psd and .psf files are both Adobe Photoshop graphics files.
    • .ai and .eps files are opened with Adobe Illustrator.
  • Other Files
    • .exe files are executable programs and installers.  Be certain you know the author of any .exe files you open, as some viruses and malware can be installed using .exe files.
    • .zip and .rar files are compressed files, usually containing more than one file that has been shrunk down.  Again, be careful in opening these kinds of files.
    • .bmp, .jpg and .gif are all graphics file extensions, and there are many programs available that can view or edit those files.
    • .iso is a disk image file.  Those kinds of files are usually burned onto a blank dvd or cd.  There are some special applications that can open these files to view the contents.
    • .avi, .mov, .mpg files are all video formats.  Some programs like Windows Media Player and Quicktime are both free, and can play several different file types.
    • .mp3, .mp4 and .wav files are all sound and music files.
Generally, when you install a program like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, it will tell your operating system that it is the default program to open various file extension types.  Sometimes, a file type is not registered with Windows or Apple.  You can manually choose the program to use for specific file types.

  • Microsoft – In Windows, if you open a file that is not associated with a program, it will automatically pop up a wizard that will allow you to browse and choose the program.  There are detailed steps here for Vista, and here for XP.
  • Apple – The process is similar for a Mac.  Here are some detailed instructions.
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