File Extension DAT
File Extension DAT is used by generic data files which may be generated by any application. As there is no defined structure for DAT files, it can be very difficult to determine the application which originally created the file let alone open it and understand its contents.
DAT files may contain data in text or binary format, and their contents vary depending on application. DAT files are specific to the application which created it, and will have its own defined file structure which is necessary to successfully read the file, particularly if the data stored is in binary format. There are a number of clues which can reveal the identity of the required application, such as the name and location of the DAT file, as they are often stored in user profile or program folders. DAT files can also store data in plaintext, and can therefore be opened and read using a text editor. However, some DAT files may be particularly large and store binary data, and so opening these will take time and may reveal little or no information about the application which created it.
A common example of a DAT file is Winmail.DAT. When Microsoft Exchange Server forwards a message containing Rich Text Formatting (File extension RTF), the information is appended to the E-Mail in a DAT file. If the recipient is not using an E-Mail client which supports RTF messages, instead of using the file to provide formatting to the E-Mails contents, the information simply appears as an attachment.
There is an extensive list of applications which use or have used DAT files, though several more common users of this file type include Microsoft Visual Studio and Internet Explorer, Nullsoft Winamp, Corel WordPerfect and Pitney Bowes Mapinfo. However, even if the application which created the DAT file is known, it is not guaranteed to be able to open it as few applications support DAT as a native file type.