A file format is a standardized method for encoding information that is stored in a computer file. A file format describes how are the bits used for encoding the information in a digital storage medium.
File formats can be either proprietary, meaning that it belongs to a company or organization, or is free. It can also be unpublished or open.
File formats can be designed for very particular types of data: JPGfiles, for example, store bitmapped images using lossy data compression.
You can easily find the format of a file by right-clicking on it, choosing Properties, and looking at the field Type of file. For instance, it could be Adobe Acrobat Document (.pdf).
Knowing the file format, you can then find how to or what software to use in order to open, view, manage and edit that particular document, picture, etc.
Quick tips for opening various file formats
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If you need more software solutions to open your computer files, especially when you aren’t sure exactly what to use, take a look at our File Opener section and choose the right tool.