File as binary
Feedback Contact About Newsletter A little diddy about binary file formats Understanding the nature of file formats and escape characters has been an itch of mine.
Binary file - Wikipedia
I recently found a few useful explanations that inspired me to write my understanding of binary files. Mini-example time. Save the file, right-click and look the properties — it should be 1 byte: notepad stores characters in ASCII, with one byte per character.
Try opening a random.
Why Binary Files are Needed
Cool, eh? File as binary the context of the information i. Now consider how a human would store the actual numeric value of 65 if you told them to write it down. Now, suppose we wanted to store the number 4, 4 billion.
How would a computer do it? So, we could store the number 4 billion in only 4 bytes.
It also saves computational effort — the computer does not have to convert a number between binary and ASCII. So, why not use binary formats?
If binary formats are more efficient, why not use them all the time? Binary files are difficult for humans to read. When a person sees a sequence of 4 bytes, he has no idea what it means it could be a 4-letter word stored in ASCII.
Binary files are difficult to edit. In the same manner, if a person wants to change 4 Billion to 2 billion, he needs to know the binary representation. Binary files are difficult to manipulate. The UNIX tradition has several simple, elegant tools to manipulate text.
By storing files in the standard text format, you get the power of these tools without having to create special editors to modify your binary file. Binary files can get confusing.
R - Binary Files - Tutorialspoint
Problems happen when computers have different ways of reading data. Regular text stored in single bytes is unambiguous, but be careful with unicode.
Binary Files in C
Representing numbers in binary can ideally save you a factor of 3 a 4 byte number can represent 10 bytes of text. However, this assumes that the numbers you are representing are large a 3-digit number like is better represented in ASCII than as a 4-byte file as binary.
However, storing text in this way is typically not worth the hassle. One reason binary files are efficient is because they can use all 8 bits in a byte, while most text is constrained to certain fixed patterns, leaving unused space. However, by compressing your text data you can reduce the amount of space used and make text more efficient.
A little diddy about binary file formats
Sometimes computers have complex internal data structures, with chains of linked items that need to be stored in a file. Marshalling is the process of taking the internal data of a program and saving it to a flat, linear file. Unmarshalling is the process of reading that that linear data and recreating the complex internal data structure the computer originally had. Notepad has it easy — it just needs to store the raw text so no marshalling is needed.
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Microsoft Word, however, must store the text along with other document information page margins, font sizes, embedded images, styles, etc. Later, it must read that file and recreate the original setup the user had. So when are binary file formats useful? There are situations where you may want to use binary file formats.
PNG images use a binary format because efficiency is important in creating small image files. There are often business reasons to use binary formats.
The main reason is that they are more difficult to reverse engineer humans have to guess how the computer is storing its file as binarywhich can help maintain a competitive advantage. Other Posts In This Series.
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