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The Importance of
File Name Extensions

These articles frequently mention filename extensions (such as DOC and JPG). Yet many tell me they see no such appendages attached to their files' names. You can fix this by clicking on Start>Control Panel>Folder Options>View and UNchecking "Hide Extensions for Known File Types."

These extensions have meaning and should NOT be hidden.

Here are some examples:
  • EXE executable file
  • TXT plain text file
  • BMP bitmap picture
  • XLS Excel spreadsheet
  • PPS PowerPoint show
  • JPG JPG digital photo

A Few Other Tech Definitions:

A computer's hard drive is a fixed disk made of material more rigid than the "floppy" plastic used on older, removable disks. It was named "C" back when most PCs had two slots ("A" and "B") for removable floppies.

Items on a hard drive (or any type of disk/disc) are either a file or a folder, the latter being recognized by its "yellow folder" icon. Folders contain files and/or other folders, which can contain still other files and folders. Some "system folders" have a different icon, such as the waste basket that designates the "Recycle" folder.

Folders do not need file-name extensions. However, if a file-name's extension is removed or altered, the file will not perform properly.

So, is a "program" a "file"?

Well, a program (a.k.a an "app" or an "application") can consist of a single file, or it can be a huge collection of files and folders that work together to perform specific tasks. For example, ssstars.scr is a one-file program that generates a "Stars" screen saver. Excel.exe, conversely, is composed of many files and folders, which can do calculations from simple checkbook balancing to plotting the trajectory of a satellite.

Downloading from the Internet - Should You SAVE or RUN?

When you "download a program" via the Internet, you are usually downloading a "setup" file (often named setup.exe) that, when double-clicked, "executes" itself into the application you had in mind. Some setup files have a .zip extension, which must be "unzipped" (decompressed) into the item or items you wanted to download. Windows computers come with a built-in unzipping program, so this usually happens automatically.

Often, after clicking DOWNLOAD, you are asked if you want to RUN or SAVE the file. Choosing RUN will execute the setup file, and create the program you want to use. Clicking SAVE will copy the setup file to your hard drive, where it waits for you to execute it (install the program) with a double-click.



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