What is a computer file?

We explain what a computer file is and what it is for. Features of a file. File formats and examples.

  1. What is a file?

In computer science , an organized set of information units (bits) stored in a device is known as a file or file . They are called that way as a metaphor from traditional office files, written on paper, as they would become their digital equivalent.

Each file has a unique identification or name, which can be modified or assigned at the will of the user or the programmer, and an extension that determines what type of file it is and what functions it performs. Usually both terms of your name are separated by a period , for example:

Within the files there are small packets of data expressed in bits (the smallest computer unit that exists) and that are sorted in registers or lines, being individually distinct but with some common feature. The way of grouping this information depends on who makes the file, so there are numerous file structures , simpler and more complex, that are more or less standardized today.

These minimum units of operation and organization of an Operating System that are the archives, then, can be created, deleted, relocated, compressed, renamed and activated ( executed , in computer language), along with other basic organizational operations.

  1. What is a file for?

Files can have numerous functions. From simply containing information in an orderly manner, such as text files , and allowing access to it by certain programs, to executable files that trigger a certain sequence of actions (and other files) that result in a specific action.

From turning off the computer to starting a video game, everything that happens in a computer system occurs through interconnected files running in turn in the computer’s memory.

  1. What is a folder?

All files necessarily exist within a folder.

The files of a traditional computer system are organized into folders (or directories) and subfolders (or subdirectories), as a way of categorizing them and distinguishing those that belong to an application or program from those that belong to another. Folders are nothing more than labels to represent the compartments of information .

This is what the file organization system is about: a complex cataloging that at the same time allows a simple user interface, since the transit of some files between two media (say: a hard disk and a pendrive ) can be so Simple how to tell the system to move them from the mother folder to the destination folder, without suffering any changes along the way or running the risk of getting lost.
All files necessarily exist within a folder .

  1. General characteristics of a file

In general, the files of a computer system are:

  • Representable . Files usually have a name of up to 255 characters and are usually represented in graphical interface operating systems (such as Windows ) by a specific icon.
  • Unique per directory . In the same folder or directory there cannot be two identical files with the same name. When this happens either of them will have to change their name slightly or in any case it will be replaced one by another.
  • Modifiable . Except those that have been expressly protected against modification, as is the case of the vital files of the computer system, which should not undergo changes because it would be destabilized, it is common for files to be deleted, created, modified, renamed at will or need .
  • They have a size . According to the amount of information that a file contains, it will have a size or “weight”, measurable in Kb, Mb or even Gb. The larger the file, the more capacity it should have the support wherever it is.
  1. File format

The way in which information is encoded and sorted within files is known as a format, and responds to various existing standards. Depending on these formats there will be compatibilities or incompatibilities when accessing such information, since it is a form of distribution that responds to a specific pattern.

This is because there can only be bits within files on any medium , since computer systems must be able to convert that information into binary code (ones and zeros) in order to process it. Thus, each type of file can be stored in various possible formats.

  1. File Examples

Some typical examples of files are:

  • Text files . Usually identified with extensions .doc, .txt, .rtf or .odt, contain sequences of alphanumeric characters arranged in specific sequences, which we call “documents.”
  • Executable files . Usually terminated in .exe ( executable , “executable” in English), .com ( command , “command”) or .bat ( batch , “batch”), are those that trigger actions, such as running an application or a video game.
  • File image . Appelled .jpg, .gif or .tiff normally, are images whose recomposed information is translated into an image, illustration or photograph .

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