The file extension RAW is associated with raw image data or raw audio data. Raw image data is created by some of the primary digital cameras on the market, such as Nikon, Panasonic, and others. Raw audio data is created using an audio device and is in a plain format that is void of any header information.
If the file extension RAW is classified as raw image data, the file is an image file type that contains image files that are in the same format as when they were created with a digital camera. Camera raw image file formats are images which have yet to be processed from the image sensor of a digital camera.
RAW files that are defined as raw audio data are an audio file type that is uncompressed and stored in a binary file format. This type of RAW file does not use a codec and is a signed audio data file.
How to Open RAW Files
Since RAW files can be opened with multiple programs and applications, double click on the file to see if it will automatically open in a default program you have installed on your PC. RAW files can consist of different file types, so you may already have a program which will open the file.
If the RAW files are defined as a raw image data file and you use Windows or Mac OS X, you can open them with Adobe Photoshop CS6, which is part of the Creative Suite of applications. CS6 recently introduced a specific camera raw program that allows you to easily open and work with camera raw image data. Adobe Photoshop CS6 with Camera Raw is available in a 30-day free trial version on the Adobe website. Google Picasa will also open RAW files on Windows and Mac OS X and is available for download on the Google website.
If you are looking for a cross-platform application to open and work with camera raw files, you can use GIMP, which is an open source image editing program available as a free download on the GIMP.org website. GIMP is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and the Linux operating system.
If the RAW file extension is classified as a raw audio data file and you use Windows or Mac OS X, you can open the file using NCH Switch, which is available for download on the NCH website and allows you to convert RAW audio data files. You can also use WavePad, which is audio editing software available for download on the NCH website.
If you are looking for a cross-platform application to open RAW audio data files, you can use Audacity, which is an open source software application designed for recording and editing sound files. Audacity is available as a free download on the SourceForge website and is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.