File Types

Because files can have different purposes, they have different types. The file type is best identified by its file structure. For example a text file would have a very different structure than a file than can be executed. An executable file must have a specific structure to be able to be run. The file structure is used to determine its MIME type. The word MIME stands for multipurpose internet mail extension and is used as a standard to identify various file types.

File Extensions

In operating systems such as Microsoft Window systems, Linux, and Unix, a file extension is used to help identify the type of file. On Microsoft Windows systems, many file types are associated with a particular program which can read the file. For example a file with a .pdf extension can be read by the Adobe Acrobat application program.

Files are actually identified by what is called a MIME type. This can be done because files that are executable have a different structure than a data structure. Therefore file extensions are not the only way to identify a file type nor are they the most accurate. Apple MacIntosh computer systems do not use a file extension to identify file types.

Executable File Types

The most important file type to be aware of are executable file types. This is because if you accidentally run an executable file on your system, it may install a virus or some other unwanted software program. Executable file types include:

  • .com
  • .exe
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