Common File Formats in Schools
Below is a list of the most common file formats in use in K-12 schools today. Knowing what file format works with any given application is essential. Many structurally similar (ie. text to text format, video to video format, etc) files can be converted to other file formats using a wide variety of file converters. I strongly recommend http://cloudconvert.com
.doc or .docx
.ppt or pptx
.xls or xlsx
The document formats for the core Microsoft Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel). Formats with the “X” at the end (ex. .docx) are the default save format for Office 2007 files and above. The “X” comes from a new file structure that utilizes XML. X files are not backwards compatible with earlier versions Office, but are smaller and more secure.
Tip: If you are sharing Office documents online or with large groups of students, save as the legacy format (ex. .doc) to ensure end users with older version of Office can open it.
Portable Document Format. A .pdf file is a self contained presentation file that contains all necessary information required to consistently display contained information across a wide array of platforms.
Tip: Any device can open a .pdf file. .pdf files can not be edited by the end user. These two factors make it the ideal format for sharing assignments online. Also, most applications can be exported as a .pdf. When in doubt, .pdf it out.
.txt or .rtf
Text or Rich Text Format. Both are very light text documents that do not contain formatting options. Both are very small and can usually be opened by any device.
Tip: Word Processing programs can both open and export as one of these simple text formats.
.htm or .html
HyperText Markup Language. A common language that many websites are written in. Your computer will use a browser (like Chrome) to open HTML files.
Tip: You don’t need to know HTML to use it. You can embed content on your own website or various places on the internet by simple placing HTML embed code in a specific location. Link to a very useful HTML reference.
Comma-Separated Value. A way of storing tabular data (think Excel) in a plain text format. Any spreadsheet application can open or export .csv files.
Tip: Most websites that allow you to bulk upload student information will accept a .csv file. Simply export the student information from Excel as a .csv and upload it to the desired website.
Electronic Publication. EPUB is the most common open ebook standard/format. .epub content is composed of “reflowable” text, meaning that the content adapts to the end users device, giving them the ability to change text size and spacing.
Tip: Most mobile devices can read .epub files (Android, Apple, Nook, Kindle Fire - some of the older Kindles still use the .mobi file format). Convert text from .pdf to .epub so students can edit the size of the text that’s displayed on their devices.
A must read article on the topic of video formats. It will really help with your general understanding of the topic.
Tip: Many audio and video files require proprietary media players to play the file. Save yourself some time and aggravation and use a cross-platform media player like VLC. It is like the One Ring of the media player world.
A Quicktime file originally used only by Apple. Now much more common across multiple platforms. Will require Quicktime or a cross platform player to run on a Windows PC. Plays natively on a Mac or iOS device.
.avi and .wmv
Video formats created by Microsoft. .avi is older and typically much less compressed that a .wmv file of the same length. Both of these files are natively supported in the Windows environment (embeddable in PowerPoints, etc).
.mpg. mpeg, .mp4
Variations of the MPEG family of video designed and promoted by ISO (International Organization for Standardization). They are open source and popular.
Flash Video. Adobe Flash container file format. Many online video sites utilize flash video (ex. Youtube). Smart Notebook requires videos to be in the .flv format in order to be embed directly in a page.
The current video standard for HTML 5. Because of this and Google’s support for the platform it is seen on Chromebooks more and more often.
.aif or .wav
Both are lossless (uncompressed) audio formats. .aif is most commonly found on Macs and .wav on Windows.
A very popular lossy (compressed) audio compression format that also contains id tags. The required format for Smart Notebook.
A lossy audio compression format designed for use with the Microsoft Windows operating system
The planned successor to .mp3. Said to be capable of better sound quality and higher bit rates.
The newest image format. Lossless data compression is used, so quality is usually somewhere between .jpg and .tif. The format offers a variety of transparency options making it ideal for web design.
The most popular image format for cameras and websites. It is popular because it uses compression technology. the compression is lossy, so quality can be compromised.
Smallest image format, but achieves this with a limited color palette.
Lossless format considered to be the highest quality image format for commercial work.