What Is a Vector Art File Extension?

By Ruth Eshbaugh

Vector art file extensions are file names produced by drawing software that has the capacity to create line art with fills. Any technology that uses vector art (drawings based on points or nodes connected by lines) will have its own unique file extension. File extensions come after the file name and are usually three to four letters preceded by a period. These extensions indicate the type of file it is and what program created it (or what program it was created for). Manufacturing processes like semiconductors depend on these file types, as do processes that digitize files for embroidery machines.

Common File Types

Some of the more common vector art file extensions are .eps (a universally accepted file format); .ai, produced by Abode Illustrator; .cdr, created in CorelDraw; .wmf, used in Microsoft programs like Word, Publisher and PowerPoint; .cgm, which stands for Computer Graphics Metafile; .swf, which stands for Shockwave Flash; and .cad, used for AutoCAD and other CAD software.

Identifying File Types

Since there are so many of these file types, it's sometime difficult to figure out what programs are needed to open them. Most vector art programs will open more than one file type. Abode Illustrator will open all of the common vector art file extensions, as well as export Illustrator files into other file types. If you can't figure out what program opens a file, a quick Internet search will help: There are multiple sites with extensive lists of file extensions and what programs are associated with them. If you don't have a program that allows you to view files with an .eps extension, there are sites with free downloads of programs that will let you view .eps files.

Postscript Files

The .eps file is a universal page-description language developed by Adobe for the printing process. This file extension allows graphic files to be accepted by any printer type to produce prints from a file as they appear on a screen. If you're unsure what file type to send to a professional printer, the .eps file is a good choice. Most vector art software like Illustrator and CorelDraw can export files into the .eps file extension.

Microsoft Programs

The vector files that Microsoft products allow you to insert into documents are .wmf, .emf, .emz, .cgm and .eps file extensions. Publisher will allow you to export files as .emf and .wmf file extensions.

Scalable Vector Graphics

Scalable vector graphics are an XML-based file type created by the World Wide Web Consortium to allow for static and dynamic vector graphic files for use on the Web, as well as in hand-held devices like cell phones. The file extension is .svg.