Native & interchange file formats by Matt Ottewill

Computers systems and applications often need to exchange files for reasons such as ...

  1. A document created in Word may need to be read in AppleWorks
  2. A piece of music created in Logic may need to be listened to in iTunes
  3. An image created in Photoshop may need to be placed in a web page
  4. A video clip edited in Final Cut Pro may need to be used in a Director or Flash project. This page explains Native and Interchange file formats

Native file formats

Every program has a Native File Format. For example, Photoshop saves to its own file format (.psd), as does Flash (.fla)

Native file formats contain the most information and editing options. An image in Photoshop may be separated into layers, layer effects, adjustment layers etc and offer the most tools for editing.

Some native file formats

Photoshop (.psd)
Illustrator (.ai)
QuarkXpress
Word (.doc)
Logic (.all)
Cubase (.sng)
Flash (.fla)
Director (.dir)

IMPORTANT: You should always save your work first in its native file format.

Click here for more on image file formats and their uses.

Why not just always use native file formats?

Many native file formats are exclusive to their programs, which means they cannot be opened by other programs. Therefore it is often necessary to Export or Save As or Save a copy a file in an interchange file format.

Also, you may need your files to be smaller file sizes, and because native file formats tend to have larger file sizes, it often makes sense to export, or make a copy, in an interchange file format. This is nearly always the case for web site media such as images, sound and animations.

You can use the same file name as your native file version but the extension will need to change.

Interchange file formats

It is often necessary to open an file created in one program into another. To do this you will need to save it in a file format familiar to both, in addition to its native file format. It does not matter what file creation and editing applications you use providing they can create files in the interchange file formats required by your target application.

Some interchange file formats

.mid MIDI files
.mp3 Meg Layer 3 audio files
.aif Audio interchange file format
.wav PC audio file format
.mpg Video file format
.mov QuickTime file format
.txt Text file format
.rtf Rich text file format (includes some formatting)

Some image interchange file formats

.bmp Bitmap.
.pct PICT is a Mac RGB file format.
.tif The tagged Image File Format.
.jpg The Joint Photographic Experts Group format.
.gif The original Graphics Interchange Format.
.png Portable Network Graphics file format.
.eps Encapsulated PostScript file format.

Click here for more on these image file formats and their uses.

(Some) Native & interchange file formats table

Application Native file Interchange files
Photoshop .psd .pdf .jpg .gif .TIF etc
Illustrator .ai .eps .pdf .jpg .gif etc
Final Cut Pro .fcp .edl (+ .mpg, .mov etc)
Cubase .sng .mid (+ .aif .wav mp3)
Logic .all .mid (+ .aif .wav .mp3)
Word .doc .txt .pdf .rtf
Flash .fla .swf
Director .dir .dcr (+ DV, images, etc)