The importance of File-Types

From DT Online


Most materials we use in Design and Technology are clearly visible and are sometimes accompanied by packaging or labels to leave us no doubt as to what we are working with. This is often not the case with electronic data since, by default, the file-type extension is often hidden from us. But electronic data can in many ways be regarded as a new material which can be used to enrich designing and making in many ways.

Features and Applications

The first task, if using a MicroSoft Windows based machine, may be to open a folder (e.g. My Documents), click on the View tab at the top and ensure the box marked File name extensions is checked (if using older versions of Windows you may have to choose 'Tools' and then 'Folder options'. Choose the 'View' tab from the top and look down the list to find the box marked 'Hide extensions for known file types'. Ensure this box is not ticked).

Now the appearance of the material is revealed and, to continue the analogy, it can be categorised in terms of characteristics and working properties. Some materials, or file-types, are proprietary (like ‘Perspex’ or ‘.xls’) and some more generic (like ‘acrylic’ or ‘.csv’). As with traditional materials, some file types can be used in many processes (or software applications), some can be used across a sub-set of processes and the least universal are locked into a single, often proprietary application (e.g. 'MS Publisher').

It is possible also to think in terms of ‘focus areas’, such as graphics, text or numerical/tables type outcomes, and associate certain file-types with them. Main groupings, such as hardwood/softwood, or ferrous/non-ferrous can also be paralleled in terms of ‘vector files’ and ‘bitmaps’ for example. The table in Table of File-Types sets out details of some common file-types – understanding the nature of the material in this way is true ICT capability and goes beyond simply choosing which software application to use for a given task.

In general, most software applications save out files ‘in their own image’, as proprietary file types, and it is these you can usually just click on to open and run the program. To see what else is available, it is often necessary to select Export rather than Save as . . and click the down arrow against Save as type to reveal the range of possible file types to export into.

For maximum flexibility choose generic types such as .txt, .csv., .jpg., .gif., .png., .htm, .html or .dxf. These offer the best chance of producing something that can be used in other applications – but it may be necessary to Import them rather than simply Open them.

In this way, a packaging net can be downloaded from the DT Online Packaging Designer and saved as a DXF file by copying and pasting the revealed code into a text editor such as 'Notepad'. This is then saved with a .dxf extension and can be imported into 'TechSoft 2D Design' or 'CorelDraw' for further work (see the on-screen help files for details). Note that if the Windows default is not corrected as described above, 'NotePad' would secretly save the file with a double extension of .dxf.txt and this is not understood by CAD software – or anything else!

DT Online Buyers' Guide
  • Single Core processors are hardly ever available these days and Dual Core quite adequate (unless required for gaming and video editing etc.) but Quad Core would be better especially in view of the high graphics content likely to be needed for Design and Technology use.
  • Generally, the more expensive and newer processors and faster and more power efficient (although faster will almost always mean shorter battery life). Intel Core i5 and AMD Series-A8 processors or better are first choice but older Pentium or less expensive Celeron may be OK if only basic use is envisaged and speed is not a critical factor but cost is an issue.
  • Laptops for Design and Technology should have at least 4Gb of RAM (preferably 8Gb), 500Gb (preferably 1Tb) Hard Drive (but SSD is better), screen resolution of no less than 1600 × 900 pixels and Dedicated Graphics Card in addition to the usual network connections.
Laptops Tablets Wireless Mouse and Keyboard Laptop Monitors Web Cam USB Endoscope USB Microscope
Laptops Tablets Wireless Mouse and Keyboard Laptop Monitors Web Cam USB Endoscope USB Microscope