File Format

Example: "PNG files store image data in a compressed binary file format."

A file format describes the way data is stored in a file. It defines the data structure (how the data is organized in the file) as well the type of data that the file contains. Some file formats are "open formats," meaning they are publicly available and can be used by all software developers. Other file formats are proprietary or "closed formats," meaning they can only be opened by specific applications.

There are two different ways of storing data in a file – as text or binary data. Text-based file formats, such as XML and HTML, store data as plain text, which means the file content can be viewed in a text editor. Binary files, on the other hand, can only be opened with a program that recognizes the specific file format. While some binary files can be opened in a text editor, most of the data will appear garbled and unintelligible.

Updated: March 15, 2011