File Formats and conversion

file formats and conversion

1. Introduction

File formats encode information so that it can be accessed by the same or similar software programmes in the future and accessed from any computer and some mobile devices.  Selection of file format is often determined from the software and hardware that you initially use to encode the information.  In the majority of cases a text document will be saved in Microsoft Word format or Apple iWork format.  These are generally interchangeable but may require saving the file in what is called an open format (such as OpenDocument Format [.odf]; Plain Text [.txt]; or Rich Text Format [.rtf]).  You might also consider using eXtensible Mark-Up Language (XML) although this format often requires more technical knowledge to use properly. 

Choosing the right file format is essential for preservation and sharing, but it is also important for yourself.  File formats change over time and it’s not always the case that new software will recognise old formats.  In ten years’ time you might come back to your data and find that you can’t even open it.