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Different File Types and When to Use Them

File types include document, image, video, and audio, but they don’t stop there. Learn the different types of files and when it’s best to use each.

When you save any type of file, you have to choose a file type. Different file types serve different purposes, with some file types being better suited for the web while others are better suited for print or other media. To make matters even more complicated, there are different file types for documents, image files, audio files, and video files.

Whether you’re building a website or crafting emails for your marketing campaign, choosing the right file type is important. For example, selecting the right image file types can help speed up web page and email loading times, which helps keep your readers engaged. If you use images or videos that are too large in size, your web page can take longer to load and visitors may leave before you get a chance to grab their attention.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the different types of files for the 4 primary file types: document, image, video, and audio. If you’re having trouble optimizing your website or your email marketing campaign with the right types of file formats, here’s everything you need to know.

Why are there different types of files?

Different types of files are compatible with different software and can achieve different things. While you can use an SRT file to add subtitles to a video, you can’t achieve that with a regular text document or RTF file. When it comes to image file types, some file types are better for print while others are better for digital graphics.

There are also different types of files for the web. Internet users expect things to happen quickly, and certain file types are significantly smaller and easier to load. When you’re building a website or sending out marketing emails, using the right file formats can help reduce bounce rates and increase engagement.

Simply put, choosing the right file type can help you optimize your web strategy and marketing campaign and get an advantage over your competition.

Types of document files

There are a few different types of documents, each of which allows different formatting and offers different benefits. Some of the most common document file formats include PDF, DOC and DOCX, HTML and HTM, and XLS and XLSX.


Portable document format (PDF) files create presentable documents, including forms and other documents that you may want to share or print without allowing people to modify them. You can even create PDF forms that are fillable, so people can complete the form digitally before printing it out. PDFs can vary quite a bit in size depending on their content.


Microsoft Word created DOC and DOCX files, which is why these are such common formats. DOC files allow you to add images, tables, and other elements directly into documents, plus you can customize font size, color, type, alignment, and more. These files are often used for official letters.


TXT files are also known as plain text documents because they’re the simplest of all the text document file types. TXT files are used for digital content that only contains text—you can’t use varying font sizes and types, and you can’t add images. Consequently, plain text documents are very small in size.


Hypertext markup language (HTML) files create the structure of a web page. Each HTML file represents a page, which is why you may have seen URLs with “.html” at the end. Keep in mind that HTML files aren’t used in the same ways as other document file types because HTML is used to create websites.


XLS and XLSX files are used by programs like Excel for spreadsheets. These spreadsheets are a great way to collect and organize data, including things like creating budgets, logging lists of names, and more. Like HTML files, XLS and XLSX files have more specialized purposes.

Types of image files

When it comes to image files, GIFs, JPEGs, and PNGs are some of the most popular formats. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the file types.


Graphics interchange format (GIF) images can either be static or animated. While animated GIFs are commonly used for social media, you can also use them in email marketing. The downside to GIFs is that they offer limited colors, which can reduce the quality of some images.


A Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) file is the most commonly used image file format, and its small file size makes it ideal for web use. Unfortunately, JPEG images don’t support transparency or animation, plus the compression used to achieve small file sizes can compromise image quality.


While a portable network graphics (PNG) file can be up to 10 times as large as a similar JPEG, PNG images are also great for web use. The PNG image file format allows for a wider range of colors, lossless compression, and transparency. However, PNG images are bad for print.


Scalable vector graphics (SVG) files are images that you can scale to different sizes without compromising the quality of the image. These graphics are great for web use, and the lossless scalability means it can be a good idea to have an SVG file of your logo as part of your brand style guide.


Tagged image file format (TIFF) files support both RGB and CMYK colors, which makes them great for print. If you’re designing letterhead, flyers, or invitations, TIFF files using the CMYK format will ensure your colors look the same on your computer and on paper. However, many web browsers don’t support TIFF files.

Types of video files

Videos are a great way to engage with your audience, and some of the most popular file types include MP4, AVI, and MOV.


The Moving Picture Experts Group layer four (MP4) file type is supported by most computers and mobile devices, but other video file types offer higher resolutions. Still, MP4 files are great if you’re uploading a video to the web, whether that’s your website or a social media account.


Audio video interleave (AVI) files aren’t the smallest, but they can provide and maintain better quality than MP4 files. Like MP4 files, AVI files are popular, which means you can use them for the web as well.


Apple created the MOV file type for the QuickTime video player, but Windows operating systems also support this type. Because MOV files aren’t widely accepted across all devices, they’re used in the video editing stage more than anything.


Flash video (FLV) is a format developed by Adobe and designed to be used with Adobe Flash Player. FLV files are widely compatible and small in size, so they do have some uses, but they’re not used as commonly as other video file types.


If you’ve ever used a camcorder, you’ve dealt with AVCHD files. These files are mostly used by recording devices, with the benefit being that AVCHD files are easy to watch on a TV. AVCHD files can create discs of recordings from compatible devices.

Types of audio files

MP3 might be the biggest name when it comes to audio formats, but here’s what you need to know about the others as well.


MPEG 4 audio (MP4) files can offer lossless compression, although these M4A files are larger in size. Apple created M4A for QuickTime, which means it’s mostly used for songs on Apple and iTunes platforms.


MPEG audio layer 3 (MP3) files are the standard when it comes to audio, including web use. MP3 files work with pretty much every device in the world, although the lossy compression means they offer lower quality than some other formats. Still, MP3s are king when it comes to audio.


WAV files have the very best quality. These audio files don’t compress the source audio at all, which means it sounds exactly as intended. These files may be used for TV, DVD, and radio productions.


FLAC is another lossless audio format, but they’re a lot larger than common audio file types such as MP3s. FLACs are most commonly used for music, although you can use them to slightly compress the size of any high-quality audio file.

Pick the best file format for you

There are lots of different types of files, so it’s up to you to learn the basics and collaborate with others to make sure you’re using the right file types for your small business.

With Mailchimp email marketing and website building tools, you can make sure your emails and website are optimized. Whether you’re adding videos to your website or using GIFs in marketing emails, Mailchimp’s tools can help you give your business a boost.

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