Definition of ASCII File in Network Encyclopedia.

What is an ASCII file?

An ASCII File is a file that contains unformatted ASCII text: only characters, numbers, punctuation, tabs, and carriage return characters. You can create and edit an ASCII file using Microsoft Notepad. If you save it with the extension .txt, it is usually referred to as a text file, but you can save it with other extensions such as .bat or .cmd for batch files, and .ini for initialization files.

ASCII File example
ASCII File example

ASCII files are often used for logon scripts and other batch files. Another common use is storing configuration information for operating systems and applications. Microsoft Windows 3.1 platforms used ASCII files for storing system and software configuration settings. These configuration files have the extension .ini and are referred to as INI files. More recent Windows operating systems save this information in the registry. Most versions of the UNIX operating system still store their configuration settings in ASCII files.

Because ASCII files contain unformatted text, they can be read and understood by any platform and are useful for sharing information between platforms and between applications. Shared information is often saved in a comma-delimited text file, or .csv file, with the fields separated by commas. Microsoft Exchange Server can export mailbox properties and other information in .csv files, which can then be imported into spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel for manipulation and analysis.

ASCII character set

The ASCII character set is the most common compatible subset of character sets for English-language text files, and is generally assumed to be the default file format in many situations. It covers American English, but for the British Pound sign, the Euro sign, or characters used outside English, a richer character set must be used. In many systems, this is chosen based on the default locale setting on the computer it is read on. Prior to UTF-8, this was traditionally single-byte encodings (such as ISO-8859-1 through ISO-8859-16) for European languages and wide character encodings for Asian languages.


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