Unpacking the Mysteries of Source Files
- 1.1 Text Files
- 1.2 Binary Files
- 1.3 Executable Files
- 1.4 Scripts
- 1.5 Libraries
If you have hired a programmer or graphic designer, you have come across the term “source files.” but what really is a source file and how is it useful?
Why do they matter? In this blog post, we will attempt to unravel the mystery of source files and explain why they are so important.
What are Source Files?
A source file is a typical plain text file that contains program instructions written in a specific programming language. From these source files, programmers create programs (or software) that can be executed on computers.
Source files are often referred to as simply “source.” As the name suggests, they are files containing a program’s source code. They are also sometimes called “text files” because they usually contain nothing but plain text. However, this is not always the case; some source files may contain binary data (e.g., image files) or even other programs.
Why Do Source Files Matter?
The simple answer is that without source files, there would be no programs! All programs must be created from scratch using a programming language; there is no such thing as a “pre-written” program. You only get the compiled program when you purchase commercial software; the source code remains locked on the developer’s computers.
If you ever want to make changes to a program—or even just understand how it works—you need access to the source code. This is why open-source software is so popular; because the source code is freely available, anyone can modify it and redistribute it as they see fit.
You cannot edit a template or graphic product without a source file. This data can be changed and saved as you prepare to publish or use it for something else. If you receive a pre-formatted file, you will not be allowed to make changes to it. A source file, on the other hand, is the original copy of the file and provides the software instructions for editing or changing the file. A high-quality source file that you can alter may be provided by the designer if you have a digital product made specifically for you.
Different Types of Source Files
Now that we know what source files are and why they matter let’s look at some of the different types of source files.
As we mentioned earlier, most source files simply text files. These files contain nothing but plain text and can be opened and edited using any text editor. The most common type of text file is the ‘.txt’ file, but many others include .c, .h, and .cpp.
Binary files are another common type of source file. Unlike text files, binary files contain data that is not meant to be human-readable. This data is typically in the form of 0s and 1s (i.e., bits) and must be interpreted by a program before it can be understandable.
Executable files are binary files that can be run or executed by a computer. These files are typically given the ‘.exe’ extension on Windows systems and the ‘.out’ extension on Unix-based systems such as Linux and macOS.
Scripts are text files that contain a set of instructions to be executed by a program. These files are typically given the ‘.py’ extension on Python systems and the ‘.rb’ extension on Ruby systems.
Libraries are collections of code that programs can use. These files are typically given the ‘.jar’ extension on Java systems and the ‘.dll’ extension on Windows systems.
Source Code vs. Source File
It’s important to note that the terms “source code” and “source file” are not interchangeable. Source code is the actual code written by a programmer, while a source file is a text or binary file that contains this code. In other words, source files are simply the container for source code.
It can be confusing, so let’s look at an example. Imagine you have a program that displays the message “Hello, world!” on your screen.
The source code for this program might look something like this:
In this example, “println” is a function that prints out whatever text are passed to it. So, in this case, it prints out the text “Hello, world!”
This code is stored in a source file, which might be called hello.c or hello.py. You can compile the source file into an executable file, which you can then run on your computer.
When do you use source files?
Source files are typically used by developers and programmers when they are working on a project. For example, if you are developing a new software application, you will likely have many different source files that make up the application.
These files will be compiled into an executable file, which can then be distributed to users. However, the source files will remain on your computer, so you can change the code as necessary.
Non-programmers may also need to use source files from time to time. For example, if you ever need to edit a website template or graphics file, you will need access to the source file to make changes.