File Formats

Coding standards are a series of rules, generally style guidelines, which dictate the format of source code. People employ standards so that code has a universal interface and is therefore compatible, maintainable and readable. However, some coding standards are comprehensive to the point of extending beyond stylistic rules. Development teams use these types of coding standards. Sometimes there is an additional layer to the coding standard specific to a project.

One of the common non-stylistic rules that coding standards govern is that of file formats. There are a wide range of reasons why file formats need to be standardized. The most common reason is the same reason that programmers generally use whitespace for indentation, cross-platform compatibility. In a large software project, some developers may be working o­n a Windows platform while others are working o­n Linux and Mac platforms. In these scenarios, a team can standardize source code and other files so that any developer can open and view the file as expected o­n their platform.

Another scenario where file format standards are necessary is projects that require external files. Developers experience this scenario often in the gaming industry. The team programming the sound mechanism for the application is usually separate from the team recording the sound effects. The sound effects team is often different from the team in charge of recording the music or soundtrack. Long before the sound technicians have completed their work, the developers must be aware of the sound file format. By standardizing the format, all three teams can go about their work without worrying about the others.

The third scenario where we often see coding standards for file formats is in data files. For instance, most development teams will keep the bulk of their data o­n a database server, such as SQL server. In the case where the application needs to access and share that data, the team will devise a standard for the data component. The standardized data interface will then be able to interface with the rest of the program and share data in the standardized data formats.