Introduction to File Processing



A piece of information used in an application is primarily represented as a group of bits. So far, if we requested information from the user, when the application exited, we lost all information that the user had entered. This is because such information was only temporarily stored in the random access memory (RAM). In some cases, you will want to "keep" information that the user has entered so you can make the information available the next time the user opens the application. In some other cases, whether you request information from the user or inherently provide it to the user, you may want different people working from different computers to use or share the same data. In these and other scenarios, you must store the information somewhere and retrieve it when necessary. This is the basis of file processing.



A file is a series of bytes of data that are arranged in a particular manner to produce a usable document. For easy storage, location, and management, the bytes are stored on a medium such as a hard disc, a floppy disc, a compact disc, or any valid and supported type of storage. When these bytes belong to a single but common entity and hold values that are stored on a medium, the group is referred to as a file.

For greater management, files can be stored in a parent object called a directory or a folder. Since a file is a unit of storage and it stores information, it has a size, which is the number of bits it uses to store its values. To manage it, a file has a location also called a path that specifies where and/or how the file can be retrieved. Also, for better management, a file has attributes (characteristics) that indicate what can be done on the file or that provide specific information that the programmer or the operating system can use when dealing with the file.


File processing consists of creating, storing, and/or retrieving the contents of a file from a recognizable medium. For example, it is used to save word-processed files to a hard drive, to store a presentation on floppy disk, or to open a file from a CD-ROM. A stream is the technique or means of performing file processing. In order to manage files stored in a computer, each file must be able to provide basic pieces of information about itself. This basic information is specified when the file is created but can change during the lifetime of a file.

To create a file, a user must first decide where it would be located: this is a requirement. A file can be located on the root drive. Alternatively, a file can be positioned inside of an existing folder. Based on security settings, a user may not be able to create a file just anywhere in the (file system of the) computer. Once the user has decided where the file would reside, there are various means of creating files that the users are trained to use. When creating a file, the user must give it a name following the rules of the operating system combined with those of the file system. The most fundamental piece of information a file must have is a name.

Once the user has created a file, whether the file is empty or not, the operating system assigns basic pieces of information to it. Once a file is created, it can be opened, updated, modified, renamed, etc.


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