A file type, as the name implies, is a specific type of file. Some file types are associated with a single application, while others file types are universal and can be opened by several different programs. For example, a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation (saved with a .PPTX extension) is a proprietary file type that can only be opened by Microsoft PowerPoint. A rich text document (saved with an .RTF extension) is a universal file type that can be opened by most text editors.
You can often identify a file type by a file's extension. For example, a .DOCX file is a Microsoft Word document. ".DOCX" is the file extension, while "Microsoft Word document" is the file type. Proprietary file types typically include the program name in the file type, while universal file types do not. For example, a .JPG file is simply called a "JPEG image" since it is not associated with a specific application.
Important: While the terms "file type" and "file format" are often used interchangeably, a file format technically refers to the way data is stored within a file.
Updated: August 27, 2013