File format

How to Change the Default Apps on Your Chromebook

By default, Chrome OS is pretty good at picking the best app for a specific purpose, but sometimes that’s not what you’re looking to do. While you can easily pick apps as you need them, you can also change the default option pretty easily.

Setting Default Apps on Chrome OS

Unlike on Android, where you can set default apps in a central location, you have to open a file in order to change the default for that file type. For this example, we’re going to use an image file, but it should work the same regardless of what you’re trying to open.

Open the file manager and navigate to the file in question, then click on it (single click, not double—that will just open the file, which is not what we’re going for here).

One the right side of the navigation bar, you’ll see an…

How to Open and Browse ZIP Files on macOS Without Unarchiving Them

What’s up with ZIP files on macOS? Anyone coming from Windows, which opens ZIP files as though they were a folder, might feel confused about the way their new Mac handles things. When you open a ZIP file on macOS, the contents are automatically unarchived to a new folder.

Many Mac users prefer this functionality, which gets the archive file out of the way quickly so you can get to the files you want. But if you miss the way Windows works, you’ve got a few options to open and edit archive files, without uncompressing them first. Here are the two best free options we could find.

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Dr. Unarchiver: Straightforward ZIP, RAR, and Other Archive Management

If you want a simple program for opening and browsing ZIP files, Dr. Unarchiver is a simple option from security company Trend Micro. A free download from the Mac App Store that supports ZIP, RAR, 7z and many more file formats, Dr. Unarchiver sports a simple user interface.

Users can click and drag individual files from this window to the Finder, and even open files directly from the archive. There’s even support for Quick Look; just press Space and you can preview a file.

It’s not quite full Finder integration, but all the basics are there. And the toolbar offers a few more features.

“Open,” somewhat confusingly, opens a new ZIP file: it does not open files in the current ZIP file. “Extract” will extract all files or your currently selected file, while “Secure Extract” will scan files for malware, assuming you’ve downloaded Trend Micro’s Mac Malware scanner. Finally there’s the Share button,…

The GIF Turns 30: How an Ancient Format Changed the Internet

The web’s favorite file format just turned 30. Yep, it turns out the GIF is a millennial, too.

At the same time, 30 makes the GIF ancient in web years, which feels a bit weird, given that the proliferation of animated GIFs is a relatively recent phenomenon. Today, Twitter has a GIF button and even Apple added GIF search to its iOS messaging app. Such mainstream approval would have seemed unthinkable even a decade ago, when GIFs had the cultural cachet of blinking text and embedded MIDI files. But today they’re ubiquitous, and not in some nostalgic sense.

Animated GIFs have transcended their obscure 1990s roots to become a key part of day-to-day digital communication. Some, like Orson Welles clapping or Michael Jackson eating popcorn, have become instantly recognizable shorthand. Others, like Sean Spicer disappearing into the bushes—itself a remix of a popular Simpsons GIF—serve up political satire. The GIF does double duty as both expression and as badge of digital literacy. Not bad for an image standard that pre-dates the web itself.


Today GIFs are synonymous with short, looping, animations. But they got their start as a way of displaying still images. Steve Wilhite started work on the Graphics Interchange Format in early 1986. At the time, he was a programmer for Compuserve, an early online service that let users access chat rooms, forums, and information like stock quotes using dial-up modems. Sandy Trevor, Wilhite’s boss at Compuserve, tells WIRED that he wanted to solve two problems.

The first was that Compuserve needed a graphics format that worked on all computers. At the time, the PC market was split between several companies, including Apple, Atari, Commodore, IBM, and Tandy, each with its own way of displaying graphics. Compuserve had used other graphics formats of the era, such as NAPLPS, but Trevor thought they were too complex to implement. So he tasked Wilhite with creating a simple format that would work on any machine.

Second, he wanted Wilhite to create technology that could quickly display sharp images over slow connections. “In the eighties, 1200 baud was high speed,” Trevor says. “Lots of people only had 300 baud modems.” The average broadband connection in the US is more than 40,000 times faster than even those blazing fast 1200 baud connections, so Compuserve needed truly tiny files.

The web’s other major image format, the JPEG, was under development at the time. But it’s better suited for photographs and other images that contain high amounts of detail and won’t suffer from a small amount of distortion. Compuserve needed to display stock quotes, weather maps, and other graphs—simple images that would suffer from having jagged lines. So Wilhite decided to base the GIF on a lossless compression protocol called Lempel–Ziv–Welch, or LZW.

Wilhite finished the first version of the GIF specification on May, 1987, and Compuserve began using the format the next month. This was two years before Sir Tim Berners-Lee…

What Is a .DOCX File, and How Is It Different from a .DOC File in Microsoft Word?

For most of its long history, Microsoft Word has used a proprietary format for its saved files, DOC. Starting in 2007 with the updated version of Word (and Microsoft Office), the default save format was changed to DOCX. This wasn’t simply a belated 1990s “extreme” version of the format—that extra X stands for the Office Open XML standard. What’s the difference, and which one should you use?

DOC is a document format used by Microsoft Word, while DOCX is its successor. Both are relatively open, but DOCX is more efficient and creates smaller, less corruptable files . If given the choice, use DOCX. DOC is only necessary if the file will be used by pre-2007 versions of Word.

A Brief History of the DOC Format

Microsoft Word started using the DOC format and file extension over 30 years ago in the very first release of Word for MS-DOS. As an extension explicitly for Microsoft’s proprietary document processor, the format was also proprietary: Word was the only program that officially supported DOC files until Microsoft opened the specification in 2006, after which it was reverse-engineered.

Microsoft Word has used the DOC file format for over 30 years.

In the 90s and early 2000s, various competing products could work with DOC files, though some of Word’s more exotic formatting and options weren’t fully supported in other word processors. Since Office and Word were the de facto standards for office productivity suites and word processors, respectively, the closed nature of the file format undoubtedly helped Microsoft retain its domination over products like Corel’s WordPerfect. Since 2008, Microsoft has released and updated the DOC format specification several times for use in other programs, though not all of Word’s advanced functions are supported by the open documentation.

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After 2008, the DOC format was integrated into…