Google’s Open Standard File Formats

Google
Image by Robert Scoble http://bit.ly/1vxNJCM

There are many different kinds of file formats out there, most of them associated to certain programs or developers. Take for example Adobe’s PDF or PSD (Photoshop) files; all the different document files by Microsoft, Apple, and the open source equivalents; or eBook files that are solely linked to the Amazon Kindle. Many of these files and especially their skeleton or insides are protected or even secret. This makes it difficult for other (open source) programs to open, process, or create them. And it makes the task of providing perfect file conversions more difficult and challenging.

However, there are few file types, that belong to an open standard. Their framework is open and accessible, thus allowing many programs across platforms to process, display, play, create, or convert them.
The probably best known search engine and (by now) software and online services provider Google has taken part in developing open standard file types, that are supported by many devices, programs, and browsers. Today, we shall have a look at those open standard files created by Google.

WEBM

WEBM stands for Web Media File, and browsers like Opera, Firefox, and Google Chrome support these files for video playback. IE9 and Safari, however, need third-party assistance. WEBM files are HTML5 based videos, and can be found, e.g, on YouTube, 4chan, or Wikimedia. Even Android devices (from Gingerbread onward) allow playback of WEBM files.

Google haven’t been the first to actually develop this format though, however they significantly altered the given format and gave it it’s current shape and functionality.

The most common programs and utilities to support and playback WEBM files are:

  • Microsoft Windows Media Player
  • VideoLAN VLC Player (on Windows)
  • FFmpeg (on Linux)
  • Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera

You can find more information at The WEBM Project.

WEBP

Web Picture files, alias WEBP, are image files that allow lossy as well as lossless compression (and the compression is said to be way more efficient than with JPEG and PNG files). However, even with compression applied, the images retain relatively high quality. The big thought behind the development of WEBP files thus was to speed up the usage of the internet as a whole because of the small storage space required to save and load WEBP images.

Furthermore, WEBP images also allow for animation, and very large dimensions (maxing out at 16.384 x 16. 384 tiles). XXMP metadata and ICC profiles are supported as well.

WEBP files can be opened and viewed using the following programs and browsers (among others):

  • Adobe Photoshop (plugin needed)
  • Irfan View
  • WebP Codec for Windows
  • Google Chrome, Opera

More information can be obtained here.


Now, it is on you to decide whether you want to go on and use those media files used by Google for your images or videos. If so, a quick way to turn your videos into the WEBM format is to convert them. Likewise, JPGs, GIFs, and other pictures and photos can easily be converted to WEBP.

If, however, you stumble upon a WEBP and WEBM file and prefer having your videos or images stored as MP4, AVI, MKV, JPG, or TIFF, you can of course convert those Google files into the formats you need!

 

Average File Sizes

Size
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There is one thing about files that everyone can’t help to notice as soon as they want to download, upload, or send it via the internet, or when the computer announces that there isn’t enough storage left: File sizes.

No matter if you store music on your iPhone, want to send a picture via email, or upload a funny video to Facebook, file sizes – when too big – can and will cause problems, especially when you are on mobile or stuck with a slow internet connection.

There are natural limitations, no matter if they are set by your email provider for attachments, or by different pages when you want to upload a video or profile picture. Keeping the kilobytes and megabytes in mind prevents you from encountering unnecessary problems.

Why’s File Size important?

As stated above, there are a number of reasons why you would want to keep the size of your files in mind. One we encounter almost daily is the limitation set by many email providers when it comes to attachments. Consider this for example:

An attachment for an email sent via gmail can not exceed 25 MB, while emails sent via Microsoft Outlook allow for individual files (not the whole bundle) to not be bigger than 20 MB.

This may not seem to be a problem at first when you want to send a picture or PDF document, but as soon as you want to send multiple files or even a video, matters become more pressing. Thankfully, most email programs let you know when you exceed the file size limit.

Another factor are upload and download times. Sure, for many users, the download of a file takes about 15 seconds, but households that still have a dial-up or other slow connection can take up to one hour for a file with a size of 10 MB. Thus, when uploading documents or other media to share on the internet, you should also keep in mind people that aren’t blessed with highspeed internet connections.

Same goes for uploading an entire album of photos to Facebook, for example, or a video to YouTube. While users of a fast internet connection can easily wait through the uploading process and even browse the net meanwhile, some people still have no chance of doing anything on the internet while the upload is in process. Especially people with a slow connection who want to upload their videos, music, or images would have to keep a close eye on the file size of their media.

Especially nowadays, mobile internet is the number one way for people to connect with the world. Yet, even if many mobile phone providers have internet flat rates in their contracts, the download speed is limited in most cases. Thus, browsing pictures or watching videos can be very annoying considering the long loading or buffering times when you are stuck with mobile internet.

Bits and Bytes

Which units are there even, and how big are they? Refer to this short list:

  • 1 B = 1 byte
  • 1 kB = 1.000 bytes
  • 1 MB = 1.000 kB or 1.000.000 bytes
  • 1 GB = 1.000 MB, 1.000.000 kB, or 1.000.000.000 bytes

Average File Sizes

But, what are the average file sizes of media we use daily? After browsing the net and producing some examples ourselves, we found out the following:

Images

  • PNG ~ 2 – 4 kB
  • GIF ~ 6 – 8 kB
  • JPG ~ 9 – 12 kB
  • TIFF ~ 900 – 1.000 kB
  • BMP ~ 900 – 1.000 kB

Documents

  • DOCX ~4 – 8 kB
  • PDF ~ 18 – 20 kB
  • ODT ~ 80 – 90 kB

Media Files

  • eBook ~ 1 – 5 MB
  • MP3 song ~ 3 – 4 MB
  • DVD Movie ~ 4 GB
  • HD Movie ~ 5 – 8 GB
  • Blu-Ray Movie ~ 20 – 25 GB

Reducing File Sizes

Reducing the size of individual files can be achieved in different ways.

Image files can easily be cropped using different photo editing software or online editors. Photographs for displaying on the web or in Facebook do not have to be big in dimension. Buttons, lines, clipart, and the like can even be stored as formats that are smaller in size because they don’t contain much color or style information, like PNG or GIF. However, uploading RAW camera images (like CR2 or NEF) are 2 to 6 times bigger than JPG files and can’t be displayed correctly anyway. TIFF and BMP files should be converted to JPG or the like as well since they are bigger in size than the compressed JPG files.

Document files that should be displayed online or provided as a download can be slimmed down as well by getting rid of unnecessary pictures and formatting. In most cases though, saving as or converting your file to PDF correlates with a reduced file size as well.

Video files can be treated similar to image files, yet getting and mastering a video editing program is much harder and takes longer than achieving the same with photo editing software. However, changing the screen size by using a video converter is be a fast and easy to use alternative.

Last but not least, bigger audio files can be converted to MP3. This goes hand in hand with loss of quality to some degree, yet for your listening pleasure this should be marginal.

Media Files supported by Windows Software

Windows
Image by Les Haines http://bit.ly/1CWJ3rK

There are many free programs you can use to watch videos, listen to audio files, or view pictures and images with. Yet, not many people feel comfortable downloading and installing unknown software – especially since some can’t even open all formats. After having had a look at native Apple files before, we will have a look at media files that are supported by Windows native programs this time.

We will concentrate on Media files like videos, audio files, and images only this time (with the exception of some project files), since document, presentation, and spreadsheet files is a topic for another day.

If you still come across an audio or video file that isn’t supported by your Windows native programs, you can still convert them into a format that can be displayed or played by them. You don’t need any download or installation for these audio converter or video converter as well.

Windows Media Player

The most current version of the Windows Media Player, Media Player 12, got rid of quite a few restrictions the Media Player 11 version still held. It is part of the Windows 7 Starter Edition, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise.

Video:

The support of MP4 and M2TS files as well as 3G2, 3GP, and 3GPP files doesn’t come as a big surprise. Especially MP4 became a very popular format for videos and movies, thus the implementation and support by the Windows Media Player was just a matter of time.

What’s more noteworthy is that Windows Media Playe 12 also supports Apple resp. Mac formats as well now, such as MOV and M4V.

  • 3G2, 3GP, 3GPP (not available in Media Player 11)
  • AVI
  • M2TS (not available in Media Player 11)
  • M4V (not available in Media Player 11)
  • MOV (not available in Media Player 11)
  • MP2
  • MP4  (not available in Media Player 11)
  • MPG
  • WMV

Audio:

While the Apple native formats AIF and AIFF have been supported by Windows Media Player before, the Media Player 12 version added support of the M4A file format as well. Furthermore, AAC files can be listened to with the Media Player as well now.

  • AAC (not available in Media Player 11)
  • AIF, AIFF
  • M4A (not available in Media Player 11)
  • MID, MIDI
  • MP3
  • WAV
  • WMA

 

Windows Movie Maker

For getting the most current version of the Windows Movie Maker, Windows Movie Maker 12, the Windows Essentials 2012 package is necessary.

Project:

The following project files that contain information about the video, audio, and other editing processes can be opened and further edited in Windows Movie Maker 12:

  • MSWMM
  • WLMP

Video:

  • WMV
  • M2TS, MTS
  • AVI
  • MP4, MOV, 3GP, 3G2
  • MPEG, MPG, MP2

Audio:

  • WMA
  • AIF, AIFF, WAV
  • M4A
  • MP3

Image:

  • JPG, JPEG
  • TIF, TIFF
  • GIF
  • BMP
  • ICO
  • PNG

 

Windows Media Center

The Windows Media center allows you to watch TV Series, movies, DVD content, and more on your computer. It’s available in the newest version for For Windows 8, 7, RT, and Vista.

Video:

  • WMV
  • M2TS
  • MOV
  • AVI
  • MP4, M4V
  • MPEG, MPG, MP2

Audio:

  • WMA
  • WAV
  • MP3
  • AAC

Image:

  • JPG, JPEG
  • TIF, TIFF
  • RAW
  • GIF
  • BMP
  • PNG

 

Windows Photo Viewer

The Windows Photo Viewer is the default program to view images, photos, and pictures of several formats since Windows 8, 7, and Vista.

The most popular image formats are supported by the Photo Viewer, but it unfortunately does not cover camera raw formats like ARW, CRW, or NEF.

Furthermore, animated GIFs are displayed as still images rather than animated. To display an animated gif in motion, one either needs Internet Explorer (or any other browser) or another picture viewing program that supports animated GIFs.

  • JPG, JPEG
  • TIF, TIFF
  • PNG
  • GIF (no animated GIFs)
  • BMP

How to Open Unknown Files

Unknown Files
Image by Dennis Hill
http://bit.ly/1xEmZTt

Did it ever happen to you that you downloaded a song or video clip, or someone sent you a file via email and once you want to open and view it, it doesn’t work? Of course you wonder why, and after checking the file you see that you may have never heard of this kind of file before. Don’t panic. The next time you encounter such an unknown file, you will be well prepared!

In this article, we will tell you how to easily handle unknown file formats, and what you can do to use them on your computer without installing any additional software.

What’s the File Extension?

The first thing to do when you find a file that you can’t open is to find out what file extension it has. Because once you have the extension’s name, you can find out what kind of file it is and how you can open it.

Find the file in question and click on it with your right mouse button. Depending on what OS you use (Windows or Apple) a list of options will pop up. One of them should be “Properties” or something similar (also depending on the language of your computer). Once you clicked on it, a pop up window will open which lists all the properties of your file. When using Windows, you will have a point that says “File Type:”. There you will find the necessary information about your file type, e.g. PDF-File (.pdf)

The file extension are the letters following the dot in the brackets. In this case, the file extension would be PDF.

What kind of File is it?

Now that you know what kind of file extension you’re dealing with, it’s time to find out what kind of file it is. A document, an image, or maybe a music file? Or something else entirely?

The easiest and most informative way to do so is by referring to a list of file formats where you can easily search for the one in question. Such lists not only give you information about the developers and all kinds of technical data about the file type, but also about the programs with which you can open them!

For example, you found an AIF file on your computer. Searching the list linked above, you find a listing under “Audio Files.” Now you know that this file was developed by Apple, contains audio data, and can be opened by the Quicktime or Windows Media Player.

How to open/view this File?

In the best case, you can now choose the program you prefer to open the file, may it be a document file or a spreadsheet. But what if you don’t have any program from the list presented installed on your computer? Instead of having to install yet another video player or Office suit program, you can easily convert your file into a format that the most popular programs can open.

Unfortunately, especially when it comes to video files, there can still be problems when you want to play a video that contains codecs that are not installed on your computer. T find more about these cases, you can read our article about video codecs and containers.

Files supported by Android

There are a few ongoing battles in the world of (digital) media.

Android
image by Rob Bulmahn
http://bit.ly/1wF2wNp

In the gaming world, there had been Sega vs. Nintendo, and now it’s PlayStation vs XBox. Which is better? Which features the better games, the better graphics? Which is more user friendly? Which has the better price? And so on, and so on… Both sides always come up with striking arguments why to buy the PlayStation 4 or the XBox One, and at the same time, both sides provide even better arguments why to NOT by the opposition’s product.

The very same happens in the world of computers and smartphones, but with respect to either hardware or operating systems. In an earlier blog post, we have talked about native file formats for Apple computers. This time, we dive deeper into the topic of mobile operating systems. Precisely, we’ll check out which file formats are supported by your phone if you have an Android based device!

Audio Files

Depending on the codecs used, Android phones can support and play several audio file types. It may be that a music file won’t play on your phone even though the file type is supported though. This is due to the codecs used to compress the audio file in question. If your phone doesn’t play a specific file, you may want to convert it into another audio file format that is more likely to be supported.

The most commonly used codecs supported by Android devices include AAC, AMR, FLAC, MIDI, MP3, PCM/WAVE, and Vorbis. The following audio file types using the codecs mentioned can thus be played on your Android phone:

  • 3GP
  • ACC (raw data)
  • FLAC
  • OGG
  • M4A
  • MID
  • MP3
  • XMF
  • WAV

 

Video Files

The very same that has been true for audio files applies to video files in terms of codecs. Depending on the codec used to compress the video container format, it may still not play on your Android phone even though it generally is supported. To watch your videos still, you can convert the video into another format or choose an Android compatible conversion right away.

The codecs supported by Android phones are H.263, H.264, MPEG-4, and V8. This leads to the following video container formats to be supported by Android devices:

  • 3GP
  • MKV
  • MP4
  • TS
  • WEBM

 

Image Files

Contrary to video and audio files, image files can not be generated using different codecs. This means that if a format is supported by an Android phone, it will be able to open all files with this extension (unless they are corrupt). The following rater image files are supported:

  • BMP
  • GIF
  • JPG
  • PNG
  • WEBP

 

Acknowledgement

This article has been written on the basis of knowledge at the time Android 5.0 Lollipop was the newest version available.

Native Apple (Mac) Files

Native Apple (Mac) Files
Image by Sean MacEntee http://bit.ly/1yJmk0Q

Users of Apple devices like Mac desktop computers, MacBooks, iPhones, or iPads are already familiar with them: the native Apple Inc. file formats. Users of other platforms and operating systems like Windows and Linux however can face difficulties with those formats because they, sometimes, have never heard of them.

This could become a problem for Apple users as well when they try to send assignments, essays or other documents, videos, or audio files from their device to someone working with a Windows computer or an Android phone.

Knowing about this problem is the first step to the solution. Either users of Apple devices or the recipients of those Apple native files can convert their files into a format supported by the operating system and device in question. Yet, before you can attempt a conversion, you will have to know which file formats are exclusive or native for Apple devices.

Thus, we listed some of the most common native Apple file formats for you.

Document Files

KEY

Keynote Presentation File – Files with the KEY extension are created with Apple’s Keynote Presentation program. Keynote can create playback presentations containing images, slide animations, set time frames, videos, etc. KEY files can be compared to Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation files.

PAGES

Pages Document File – When using Apple’s word processing program Pages, your files – including pictures, formatting, layout and the like – will be saved with a PAGES extension. They work like Microsoft Word files like DOC or OpenOffice Writer text files.

Audio Files

AIF/AIFF

Audio Interchage File Format – AIF or AIFF files are lossless and uncompressed audio files developed by Apple. These files are popular among professional musicians since they can store their music with very high quality using these file types. Converting your files to AIFF can thus be important if you wish to work with your audio files on a more professional level. The compressed versions of the AIF/AIFF files feature an AIFC extension.

CAF

Apple Core Audio Format – One advantage of CAF files is that these containers can hold several types of audio and additional metadata. With these new features, it quickly replaced the AIF format since it doesn’t have the same limitations. It can also hold audio data that exceeds the size of 4 GB.

M4A

MPEG-4 Audio File – M4A is the common file format used on Apple iTunes. In addition to audio track, M4A files also store additional data like images. What sets these files apart from other audio files is that lossless compression is available for M4A files as well. There’s also the possibility to convert your audio files to M4A.

M4P

MPEG-4 iTunes Music Store Audio File – Similar to M4A files, M4P files can be found on Apple iTunes. In addition to the features of the M4A files, M4P files are protected using Apple’s DRM copy protection.

M4R

MPEG-4 iPhone Ringtone File – M4R audio files are part of Apple iTunes as well. They are not meant to be “real” music tracks though, but serve the purpose of being ringtones for the iPhone. They have undergone lossy compression.

Video Files

M4V

MPEG-4 iTunes Video File – M4V files are very similar to the well known MP4 format. When downloading a video from iTunes, it usually comes in the M4V format and can – but doesn’t necessarily have to – be protected with Apple’s DRM copy protection.

MOV

QuickTime Movie File – Nowadays, MOV files are not exclusively usable on Apple devises anymore, but can be opened on Windows operating systems as well. It’s a video file format originally developed for the Apple QuickTime Player, and converting your videos to MOV can be a useful feature.

Other Files

DMG

MAC OS X Disk Image File – DMG files usually serve the purpose of installing programs on a Mac computer, contain encrypted and compressed data. Mac computers treat DMG files like hard copy disks.

IPA

iOS Application File – Files with an IPA extension are essential for anything downloaded from iTunes, may it be games, programs, or utilities. They contain information necessary for the iOS device to open and/or run the programs they are linked to.

PICT

Apple QuickDraw Picture File – PICT files are created when using the Apple QuickDraw program. They can contain vector graphics as well as bitmap images with a big variety of colors. Yet, PICT images are raster images, which means that they are not scalable without loss in quality.