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"Cross-platform compatible files"

Many issue exist for cross-platform file and formats, we will not deal with all issues.

This site contains information on: moving files between computers, File Name Compatibility, graphics formats and windows suffixes.

It does not try to deal with all the issues only highlight some of the possible solutions. To deal with all the issue completely, you would need to discuss each applications on both Windows and Macintosh platforms and all versions.

Macintosh File Types and Creator

On most computers other than the Macintosh the only way to determine the file type is by one of two things: To solve this problem, Apple from day one, always added the ID of the application that created the file (Creator ID's are Registered with Apple) and the Four character type of the file to very Macintosh file. This is fine for file created on the Macintosh, but to receive and use file from other computers such as Windows you require this information to be set by the program downloading this file, using a program such as CTC (Change Type and Creator) or configuring PC Exchange / File Exchange to map MS-DOS three character extension to Macintosh file types and creators when PC formatted disks are used on a Macintosh. MacOS 8.5 merged Internet Config and PC Exchange setting so most common three character suffix are now set to defaults. They can be reviewed in the Internet control panel under advanced settings, file mapping preferences (to access in the Edit menu, set User Mode, and set Mode to Advanced).
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Windows "Cross-platform compatible" file extensions (Suffixes)

It is important that file have the correct Macintosh file type when they are accessed by a Macintosh application. It is also important for Windows user to have the correct three character file name extension. The free program CTC (Change Type and Creator) can be used to set the Macintosh File Type and Creator. As of version 2.2 CTC also can add the Windows Extension with the help of Internet Config (pre MacOS 8.5) and Internet control panel. Adding the three character extension to Macintosh file name does not hurt on the Macintosh, it has no effect. But it does make moving file to PC easier.

The following table is a summary of a few common "cross-platform compatible" file extensions you may see on a PC disk. That is file that use the same file format on each platform. It also list a few that generally are not compatible. In many cases, these extensions are required or expected by the application under Windows. In other cases, they are common usage but are not required. Generally you need to add the DOS extension to the Mac file name so the DOS or Windows program can recognize it. Under Windows these extensions control the mapping of the file's ICON and what application the file will open in. Mac OS X and Window's File Manage can optionally show or hide the extension from the user.

For example, a Word 6 Mac document named "letter" that you want to use on Word 6 for Windows. You would want to rename the file to "letter.doc" so that Word for Windows 6 (if installed) will recognize and open the file.

Note: This list is by no means a complete and exhaustive list of possible cross-platform compatible file formats. If the file format you are using is not listed below, you can often find the information by look in the software manual index for "Export..." or "Save as..." options or contacting the software application's manufacturer.

Graphics files suffixes


Encapsulated PostScript file


Windows BitMap file


Macintosh Picture (PICT) file


Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) file


JPEG graphic file


TIFF graphic file


Public Network Graphic (PNG) file


AcroBat file

Movie suffixes


QuickTime Movie file, support many types of tracks (such as: text, video, 3d, sprits, and sound)
Install QuickTime for Windows to play on Windows.


Windows Movie file format, a less flexible movie format than QuickTime.


Standards based Movie file format.


Standards based MPG level 3 Audio Movie file format.


Standards based MPG level 3 Audio Movie file format.


Standards based MPEG 4 video/audioMovie file format.


Standards based MPEG 4 Video (protected) Movie file format. Often used on iPods.

.3gp, .3gpp

Standards based 3GPP Movie file format used on cell phones.

Word processors, Spreadsheets, Desktop publishing suffixes


dbase II, III, IV data file


Microsoft Word for Windows




ClarisWorks for Windows Stationary


ClarisWorks for Windows Document


Rich Text Format


ASCII text file (common)


Hyper Text Markup Language file.
Use Web browser to view the file.


PowerPoint file


PageMaker file (the numbers following represent the Version #)


QuarkXPress file


Excel spreadsheet

Fonts: TrueType and OpenType


TrueType Font
Prior to MacOS 8.5, TrueType fonts or ".TTF" files need to be translated to Macintosh font resources. Conversion utilities such as TTConvert and TransType will convert between the two platforms formats.

With MacOS 8.5 (or later) no translation is needed. Installed into System's Font folder.


TrueType Collections
Windows also supports TrueType Collections, or ".TTC" files, which contain several 'sfnt' font structures organized with a simple directory scheme. This organization allows the individual fonts to share complete tables among each other. These fonts have also not historically been usable on the Macintosh until MacOS 8.5.


OpenType Font
OpenType fonts represent a new naming and packaging for fonts. Adobe, in conjunction with Microsoft, have defined a data-fork-based, 'sfnt' structured font file to contain PostScript font data. The glyph data itself is stored in a new format called CFF, or Compact Font Format. The notion behind this structure is that these fonts could behave the same as TrueType fonts on Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Java suffixes


Java Archive format (binary, crossplatform).


Java compiled class files.


Java source file format (readable as a Text).


Java on-line startup file for Java programs launched from website (readable as a XML Text file).


Java Server Pages for server side content creation of websites (often running on TomCat Server, readable as a Text file).


Java properties file contan java application settings.

Other common suffixes


Windows applications
Generally not useful on the Macintosh. May be a self extracting ZIP file, if so Stuffit Expander will also uncompress it.


Windows Dynamic Link Library
Generally not useful on the Macintosh


Windows Screen Saver applications
Generally not useful on the Macintosh

.SIT, .sitx

Macintosh compressed archive.
Use Stuffit Expander (Windows or MacOS) to extract.
.sitx is a later more modern version of .sit format. Requires Stuffit Expander 7 or later.


compressed archive for iShell from TribeWorks.
Use UnWit to extract, or used by iShell Runtime as is when playing Multimedia Projects.


Disk image.
If your using MacOS use Apple's disk Copy to mount or write back to floppy. MacOS X uses .dmg images.


Disk image.
MacOS X .dmg disk images files for mounting and distributing software, backing up and creating images of hardrives, CD and DVD's.


Common Windows Archive format.
Use WinZip or Stuffit Expander (Windows or MacOS) to extract files.


Common unix Archive format.


Common unix compressed file.


Macintosh self extracting compressed archive.
Use Stuffit Expander to extract files or double click (MacOS).


Macintosh "MacBinary" encoding.
Use Stuffit Expander (MacOS) to decode.


Macintosh "Binhex" encoding.
Use Stuffit Expander (Windows or MacOS) to decode.


UU encoding.
Use Stuffit Expander (Windows or MacOS) to decode. An old ASCII encoding system for sending binary file via e-mail.

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Updated: 10 July 2006
Copyright © 1995-1999, 2006, All Rights Reserved By R. Mark Fleming.