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What is file extension

Files are one of the most important entities in computing. Many operations that computer performs are based on files or require files in some way or another. If files would suddenly become unavailable the computer would immediately crash or hang. There are many aspects about files which are not very important to computer users but in order to work with computers efficiently it is necessary to know at least some basics about files and file extensions.

File is a unit of storage of information in the computer. File can store any amount of information limited only by limits of computer file system. Each file is identified by name which allows operating system and applications to refer to the file. File name typically consists of two parts: file name and file extension. They are separated by a “dot” delimiter. It is possible for a file not to have a file extension, but it is not frequent. File could not exist without a name.

While file name helps identify what information is stored inside the file, file extension specifies format of that information. For example, if the file is named “resume.pages” then its name “resume” identifies that resume is stored in that file and “pages” tells us that it is an Apple Pages Document.

Each operating system has a database where it stores associations between applications and file extensions. This database is necessary to open a file. When user requests operating system to open the file, it needs to know which application can do it. Since there are tons of applications and many of them use similar file extensions and they constantly release new updates it is impossible to create this database once and leave it as is. That is why this database is updated on the fly for each operating system installation. Whenever new application is installed operating system updates file associations database with file types which this application can open. Similar when application is uninstalled file associations are removed from the database. If there are multiple applications associated with file extensions, then user will be prompted to select a default one when file with this file extension will be opened for a first time.

When operating system is installed a basic form of file associations database is installed which has some file extensions which could be opened by operating system itself. In case on Microsoft Windows this includes executable file extensions, some image file extensions, text and settings file extensions. As new applications are installed the associations database growth.

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PAGES Quick Info
Apple Pages File Format
  • application/x-iwork-pages-sffpages
Opens with
  • Apple Pages
  • LibreOffice