Feb 1, 2007

What is the difference between an ASCII and a software-specific file?

An ASCII file is a plain text file consisting of numbers, letters, and symbols with no formatting. An ASCII file can be opened in any word processing program. It can only be analyzed, however, if it is read into a database, statistical, or spreadsheet software package. Data definition statements are necessary to read fixed-format ASCII files. See How to Interpret a Record from an ASCII Data File for more information.

Software-specific files, such as SPSS portable files, SAS transport files, Excel spreadsheets, or Microsoft Word documents, are configured for use with their respective software packages. These files may be used with software other than that in which they were created, if the desired software allows the conversion. Users should keep in mind that some changes, especially regarding formatting, might occur in the translation.