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Naming Files and File Extensions

Posted on Jan 4, 2010

This week's Tech Tip talk > about the use of File Extensions when naming saved files on your computer.

Did you know that there are certain characters that should not be used when naming files or folders? The operating system uses these characters for operations and if they appear in a name, the computer may misinterpret their meaning. The list includes:

\ (backslash)

/ (forward slash)

: (colon)

* (asterisk)

? (question mark)

" (double quotes)

< (left angle bracket)

>(right angle bracket)

| (pipe)

You should also Avoid %, #, and $.

You should only use one period (between the file name and the extension)

Spaces and capital letters in names should be avoided if the file is to be posted on a web site for download.

All computer files use an extension to determine the program used to create the file.  Depending on the settings, the extension may be hidden from your view. To see the extensions, change your view options (Windows) or Finder preferences (Mac). If you try to open a file and a window appears asking you to choose a program, chances are that the extension is missing or that you do not have the program that was used to create the file. If the extension is missing and you know what the file type is, you can add it to the file name. Common extensions are:

.doc or .docx - Microsoft Word

.xls or xlsx - Microsoft Excel

.ppt or .pptx - Microsoft Powerpoint

.wks - Microsoft Works

.wmv -Windows Media

.mov -Apple QuickTime

.pdf -Adobe Portable Document Format

A complete list of file extensions can be found at:

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