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1. Chess any of the eight vertical rows of squares on a chessboard
2. Computing a named collection of information, in the form of text, programs, graphics, etc., held on a permanent storage device such as a magnetic disk


a hand tool consisting essentially of a steel blade with small cutting teeth on some or all of its faces. It is used for shaping or smoothing metal, wood, etc.



a cutting tool with rows of cutting teeth along the working surfaces (planes or edges). The first files date from the early Iron Age (Hallstatt culture, c. 900–400 B.C.) and were one of the tools used by iron forgers. The instrument became widespread after the emergence of specialists in metalworking (ancient Rome). Files originally had parallel cutting ridges; later they acquired intersecting ridges. (Such files first appeared in Rus’ in the 12th century.) The following files are distinguished: bastard files (coarse cut), smooth-cut files (fine cut), and barette files (finest cut). Small files with fine cut are usually called needle files.

The cross sections of files may be rectangular, semicircular, triangular, or square. Rasps, files with separate points, are used for working wood and other nonmetallic materials. Files are used manually or mounted on special filing machines.


(computer science)
A collection of related records treated as a unit.
(design engineering)
A steel bar or rod with cutting teeth on its surface; used as a smoothing or forming tool.


file: nomenclature
A metal (usually steel) tool having a rectangular, triangular, round, or irregular section and either tapering or of uniform width and thickness, covered on one or more of its surfaces with teeth or oblique ridges; used for abrading, reducing, or smoothing metal, wood, or other materials.


(file system)
An element of data storage in a file system.

The history of computing is rich in varied kinds of files and file systems, whether ornate like the Macintosh file system or deficient like many simple pre-1980s file systems that didn't have directories. However, a typical file has these characteristics:

* It is a single sequence of bytes (but consider Macintosh resource forks).

* It has a finite length, unlike, e.g., a Unix device.

* It is stored in a non-volatile storage medium (but see ramdrive).

* It exists (nominally) in a directory.

* It has a name that it can be referred to by in file operations, possibly in combination with its path.

Additionally, a file system may support other file attributes, such as permissions; timestamps for creation, last modification, and last access and revision numbers (a` la VMS).

Compare: document.


A collection of bytes stored as an individual entity on the computer's hard drive or SSD. A file is the common denominator of storage. All data and programs, no matter which kind, are stored as files with an assigned file name that must be unique within the disk folder (directory) it resides in. Files with the same name can reside in separate folders. See folder.

Computers Know Nothing About Data Files
To the computer, a data file is nothing more than a string of bytes that is identified by name and location on the disk. Once read into the computer's memory, the structure of a file is known to the software that manipulates it. For example, database files are made up of a series of records (one per customer, vendor, transaction, etc.). Word processing files contain a continuous flow of text interspersed with format codes (tags). To learn more about file structures, see database.

Except for ASCII text files, which contain only raw text, other data files have proprietary structures. Formatting and descriptive information are contained in headers at the beginning of the file and/or in tags interspersed throughout the file.

Computers Are Savvy About Program Files
In contrast to data files, the computer is very aware of the content of an executable program file, which contains instructions. When given the starting point of an instruction in memory, the computer expects to find the strings of bytes in a machine instruction format that it recognizes and is able to follow, one instruction after the other (see machine language).

Following are the major file types. See file association, ASCII file, file system and files vs. folders.

DataFile Type       Contents

 data file       text & binary
  (table)         (rows/records)

 document        text & format codes

 spreadsheet     rows/columns of cells

 image           rows/columns of pixels

 drawing         list of vectors

 CD audio        digitized sound waves

  audio (MP3,    compressed digitized
  AAC, etc.)     sound waves

 MIDI            MIDI instructions

 video           digital video frames

 Web page        text, HTML tags &
  (HTML file)     JavaScript

 XML file        text

 batch file      text

 text file       text

 SoftwareFile Type       Contents

 source code     text

  language       binary (bytecode)

 executable      binary
  program         (machine language)
References in periodicals archive ?
The Consumer Household List in DemographicsNow, sourced using quarterly updates from Experian's Gold File, for the first time allows subscribers to not only profile, segment and acquire consumer data by geographic region and pinpoint individuals based on dozens of household-level demographics, including income, gender and age, but also identify who is buying their products, where they are and how to acquire more customers.
Airline, Car Rental, Airbank Information American Airlines: 800/433-1790 Index #9375 Delta Air Lines: 800/241-6760 File #190955A United Airlines: 800/521-4041 Meeting ID #511GT US Airways: 877/874-7687 Gold File #77112636 Hertz Car Rental: 800/654-2240 CV #021H0008 (for AICPA Member Discounts) AMTRAK (Northeast corridor): 866/265-1974
Airline, Car Rental, Amtrak Information American Airlines: 800/433-1790 Index #9375 Continental Airlines: 800/468-7022 Reference Code #VXVBN4 Delta Air Lines: 800/241-6760 File #190955A United Airlines: 800/521-4041 Meeting ID #511GT US Airways: 877/874-7687 Gold File #77112636 Hertz Car Rental: 800/654-2240 CV #021H0008 (for AICPA Member Discounts) Amtrak (Northeast corridor): 866/265-1974