I am a graphic designer working at a university. My clients and colleagues are not informed on design terminology and using the term native file is often met first with a negative emotional response because it sounds like a racial slur to many people of this demographic. I am torn because, although I sympathize with this stance and don’t want to offend anyone, the term native file describes a very specific thing in the design world and not using correct terminology feels wrong.

Does anyone know if there is another term for native file that means the same thing? Maybe source file?

  • Are these humanists by any chance? Anyway, I guess native feels different in different locales so telling somebody that they are a native speaker does not usually trigger any problems. So why would a native file trigger one.
    – joojaa
    Apr 6, 2017 at 11:03
  • Sound really annoying. I know the problem with political correctness (but English is not my native language so I can use the word "native" as I please :-) ). Those people who can't stand the word "native" forget that it is only humans who are equal and have rights. Here we are talking about computer files and they are not equal so we can speak "dirty" to them if we like. The offensive meaning of the word "native" is only one of several meanings and we need that word to be able to describe the world properly. If we remove it we have to invent a new sound for the same meaning.
    – Wolff
    Apr 21, 2017 at 14:56

2 Answers 2


I always use "Native file" -- meaning native to the application which created it. It's been an industry standard term for 20-30 years now. It's no worse than using the term "ballcock" if you are a plumber.. it's a legitimate term.

If someone is offended by that term, then they are being overly sensitive. There's nothing wrong with the term "Native File". It has zero ethnic connotations.

"Source file" often refers to an original file which was then altered. In many cases "Source File" and "Native File" are not the same thing.

If "Native file" is causing issues you can either tell people to lighten up, or perhaps use "Native Application file" or maybe "Working Application file", or "Working file" in some cases.


No, a native file is the format that reflects the applications internal structure, it was designed to operate on that file. While a source file has no such implication, a source file can be anything you happened to have as a starting point.

Neither of these gives you much guarantees though. Having a native file may not help you because you lack the source, having a source may not help you because its been edited since then. SO talking of either in a station that does not have a strong contextual meaning to the words does not really save you.

While its true that for most projects native files are the files your interested in, be aware that this does not mean you get the whole chain of events. For example i have been in a meeting where a client has very strongly asked for native files when I supplied them EPS files. For those of you who do not know, I frequently draw stuff by manually writing EPS files. Those being in this case both the native files and the source files in this case. So when you say native file be sure to specify what your expectations are!

  • "expectations": it is often the case that the person doesn't even understand what "file" means.
    – Yorik
    Apr 6, 2017 at 18:35

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