File formats

Every file used and stored in a computer has a File Extension which tells the computer which Application Program (App) is used to view it. Some file types cannot be opened in every computer so you need to ensure your file is compatible with the University system.

In addition to the file type it is also important to consider the file size. Not only will a large file use up your internet upload/download allowance, but it may take a long time to transfer. Long transfer times can lead to problems with submission to Moodle.

There is a size limit imposed on most submissions to Moodle (100MB). The Mahara (ePortfolio) platform has a total of 100MB storage for each student. The following sections outline a group of file types and you will find suggestions about compressing the file size.

File naming

Giving your file a particular name not only identifies your file from other students, but will also help you keep track of your assignments. Setting and maintaining a consistent format in your file naming is a good habit to get into early.

In general:

  • Find out before the due date whether your lecturer, teacher or tutor has a preference for file size or name
  • Use the following standard in the absence of specific instructions. Advice may appear in the course description or be provided through a student forum. If in doubt, ask your lecturer or tutor first.

coursecode_assessmentnumber_yourname_studentID.doc

In this format, the elements are:

  1. coursecode
    This is a set of letters and numbers that is unique for each course you study. Example: LITCI1006
  2. assessmentnumber
    Number your assessments in the same way they appear on your descriptions, usually starting at 1.
  3. yourname
    A shortened version of your name, as your student ID is also supplied. Include your first initial followed by the first four letters of your surname. Example: jstud (if your name were Jo Student)
  4. studentID
    Your FedUni student identification number. Example: 21214237
  5. .doc
    This is the file extension of document you are uploading. It goes at the end of the file name after a dot, and is usually only three characters long. (.doc or .docx are Microsoft word extensions)

Office files

There are numerous file extensions associated the the Microsoft Office programs. If you are having trouble identifying an extension, review this list.

Word documents

(.doc or .docx) Depending on the version of Word, files will be saved in one of these two formats.

.docx is preferred as there is less likely to be formatting errors in your document when it is opened on a lecturer’s computer. Other Office programs like Open Office and Libre Office can save in .doc format, however there have been instances of the format changing when this file is opened in Word, and this can lead to lost marks. Fortunately a free download of Office 365 is available to all students, so other software is unnecessary.

If you have inserted images into your document, then the file size is likely to be larger than normal. This generally makes your file slow to open and up- or download. By simply compressing the images, you can reduce the overall file size.

Compress images via the Format tab.

  1. First click on the image you want to resize
  2. Click on the “Format” / “Picture tools” tab
  3. Click on “Compress Pictures”
  4. Select the options you require
  5. Click “Save”

Keep in mind that reducing the size of the image will also reduce quality. If it is critical to maintain the quality of images (for example, if you are a visual art student submitting images of your work), then your lecturer, teacher or tutor will have good advice: ask them.

It is possible to save a word document into another format such as .pdf if you need to. Simply select ‘Save as’ and then in the ‘Save as type’ drop down, choose PDF. Remember you still need to enter your file name!

Excel documents

(.xls or .xlsx) These are standard spreadsheet data files.

Many programs can view the data directly from these file types. On occasion you may need to save the data as a PDF file or a CSV file. This is the same process as above for Word. .csv files break the data into a text style file with each component separated through a specific method, usually a comma. This type of file is often used to transfer the data from excel into another application.

Read more about Excel software.

PowerPoint documents

(.ppt or .pptx) PowerPoint files can be used when presenting material to a group.

You can print a PowerPoint file as a handout, save it as a PDF, or export it to Word to create a customised handout.

Read more about using PowerPoint.

Office vs. MacOS

MacOS has its own Word processor app (Pages), Spreadsheet app (Numbers) and Presentation app (Keynote).

Documents created in the these apps will automatically be saved with the MacOS file extensions .pages .numbers or .keynote. These files can only be opened by the MacOS application. You will need to ensure that you are saving files in the Microsoft Office format.

Converting Mac files to Office format via the “File” menu item:

  1. Click “File”
  2. Hover your cursor over “Export to”
  3. Click “Word”, “Excel” or “PowerPoint”

Formatting can be a real issue when exporting MacOS file types to Microsoft Office file types, so its not recommended that you use Pages, Numbers or Keynote for your university work.

A free download of Office 365 for Mac is available to all students so other software is unnecessary.

Images may come in a number of formats. For simplicity of use .jpg and .png formats will be smaller and easier to manipulate either online or embedded into an assignment. Most digital photographs are stored as .jpg files by your phone camera.

If you have a Windows machine, it is easy to open an image in the ‘Paint’ application. You can use this simple software to resize the image which will drastically reduce the file size. You can also use the ‘Save As’ function to format the image into one that suits your purpose. Images to be shown online or on a PowerPoint slide do not need to be as high resolution as printed photographs.

Images are sometimes identified as DPI (dots per inch) or PPI (pixels per inch). These are not exactly the same. DPI refers to printing the image out onto paper where PPI refers to the image on screen. If you are unsure about changes you intend to make to an image then make a master copy of the image to leave unchanged. Now you can make edits and if they are not correct you have not lost your original image.

PDF files

Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) files are useful for fixing the format of a document. This ensures that every viewer gets the same result regardless of the type of machine they are using. Generally PDFs are not available for editing, though some software will allow them to be annotated or even opened for complete review.

Adobe Reader is a free application which you can download to view PDF files. Don’t forget to turn off the optional offers before selecting the download.

The Adobe Acrobat application is used to create PDF documents, but most Microsoft Office applications can save a version of the document as a PDF using the ‘Save As’ function.

Many journal articles and some eBooks from the library will be in PDF format so it will be essential to have a reader on your computer. You may wish to upload some of your work in PDF format to your ePortfolio (Mahara) so that it can be viewed online.

As a general rule, assignments are submitted as Word documents, but you should check the submission requirements set by your course coordinator in the course description.

Video files

(.mp4) There are many different video file types including the .wmv on Windows machines and .mov, .qt for Apple and .avi. None of these file types can be guaranteed to work on other machines, so AVOID them at all costs.

The standard for shareable video files is the .mp4 file type.

If your video recorder has used another file type, you will need to convert it to .mp4 before uploading or submitting it as part of an assignment.

The simplest way to do this is to upload the file to your YouTube account where it will be automatically converted and compressed into a YouTube format. You can then either share the video address or embed it onto a webpage. Remember to have your video settings set to private in your YouTube account.