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INI file

INI file

INI file definition

An INI file is a configuration file that computer programs use to store settings in plain text. It typically consists of sections, each containing key-value pairs.

See also: configuration file

History of INI files

INI files, short for initialization files, originated in early versions of Microsoft Windows (like Windows 3.x) in the 1980s. Initially, they were used to store configurations for the operating system and applications. Their simple structure, based on sections and key-value pairs, made them easy for users to read and edit.

As newer versions of Windows like Windows 95 came out, they began using the Windows Registry for software configuration. Despite this, INI files remained popular for many applications due to their simplicity and portability.

INI file use cases

  • Software configuration. Many software applications, especially older ones, use INI files to store user preferences or settings. For instance, software like certain text editors may store font size, window size, or theme preferences in an INI file.
  • Game settings. Some video games use INI files to save user-specific configurations, like graphics settings or control mappings.
  • Server configurations. Certain server software or services might employ INI files to keep track of server parameters, paths, or other settings.
  • Portability. Portable software (like one running from a USB stick without installation) can use INI files to store settings. That’s possible because they don’t need access to the host machine’s registry.
  • Third-party libraries or frameworks. Some development libraries or frameworks use INI files for settings because they are easy to read, write, and parse by programs.

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