|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (March 2011)|
Screenshot of an .nfo file
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|Type of format||Plain text|
.nfo (also written .NFO or NFO, a contraction of "info", or "information") is a commonly used three-letter filename extension for text files that accompany various digital scene releases with information about them. Unlike README files, NFO files often contain elaborate ASCII art that nowadays can be viewed with dedicated NFO viewers, text editors with appropriate fonts (Terminus) or online in public NFO databases. The files have been explained as essentially being the press releases of the warez scene.
NFO files usually contain release information about the media. If the NFO file is for software, product installation notes can be found. They are commonly associated with warez groups who include them to declare credit of said release. Similarly they are often found in demoscene productions, where the respective groups include them for credits, contact details, and the software requirements.
NFO files were common, and sometimes required, during the era of the BBS. A typical warez NFO file was elaborate and highly decorated, and usually included a large ASCII art logo along with software release and warez group information. The designers of these NFO files frequently incorporated extended ASCII characters from the then near-ubiquitous code page 437 character set in the file.
Before Windows 95 was introduced, NFO files also sometimes used ANSI-escape sequences to generate animated ASCII art (ANSI art). These animations, however, required ANSI.SYS to be loaded by the DOS shell. If the user's computer wasn't already configured to load the ANSI.SYS driver, viewing ANSI art required reconfiguring and rebooting. Because of this, ANSI art was much less common, and getting ANSI art to display correctly on a Windows 95 PC often proved more difficult, leading to a decline of such art in NFO files.
As of 2014, NFO files can still be found in many ZIP archives. In modern day warez NFO files, a large ASCII art logo is frequently shown at the top, followed by textual information below. Instead of using the old code page 437 extended ASCII characters, modern ASCII art uses the current de facto web standard ISO-8859-1/ISO-8859-15 or Unicode UTF-8 characters.
Because the once-ubiquitous ASCII code page 437 was never common on the World Wide Web and is poorly supported by most (as of 2007) modern computers, older NFO files are frequently rendered incorrectly in modern web browsers and on modern operating systems (which mostly no longer use code page 437). To display old NFO files as intended, a dedicated CP437-capable viewing software or conversion is often required.
An added problem lies in the fact that many modern web browsers and text editing programs often use proportional fonts, whereas the ASCII art included in both old and new NFO files is heavily dependent on the file being viewed with a fixed width font. As a workaround, simply using a text editor and selecting a monospace font may, in the absence of incompatible extended ASCII characters, sometimes be sufficient. In this case, the only difference might be that the text in GUI text editors will often be black on a white background (rather than white on a black background as seen when viewing in MS-DOS or Unix console), thus making some of the art appear to be "inverse", like a film negative.
NFO files were first introduced by "Fabulous Furlough" of the PC organization The Humble Guys, or THG. Such organizations are also known as warez groups or crack groups. The first use came in 1990 on the THG release of the PC game Bubble Bobble. This file was used in lieu of the more common README.TXT or README.1ST file names. The perpetuation of this file extension legacy was carried on by warez groups which followed after THG and is still in use to this day. Hence its strong presence on Usenet newsgroups that carry binaries and on P2P file trading networks.
On Microsoft Windows, the NFO filename extension is associated with a Microsoft software tool called System Information (msinfo32.exe). System Information provides a general overview of a computer's system specifications as well as detailed information on the system's hardware components and information about the Windows environment. NFO files that are meant for System Information simply contain all of the information that System Information displays and are saved in an XML format.
- "NFO Viewer". NEWS file. "Remove mimetype installation files and use the new 'text/x-nfo' mimetype added with freedesktop.org's shared-mime-info 0.30"
- "Defacto2 - Scene Documents, text and NFO files".
- "NFO Viewer". "NFO Viewer is a simple viewer for NFO files, which are "ASCII" art in the CP437 codepage. The advantages of using NFO Viewer instead of a text editor are preset font and encoding settings, automatic window size and clickable hyperlinks."
- Prince, Brian (2008-11-14). "Tracking the Crackers—A Look at Software Piracy". eWeek. ISSN 1530-6283. Archived from the original on 2012-06-19.
- Craig, P.; Honick, R.; Burnett, M. (2005). "Why Software is Pirated". "Software Piracy Exposed". p. 239. doi:10.1016/B978-193226698-6/50038-6. ISBN 978-1-93-226698-6. "NFOs are text files that contain descriptions about the media. If the NFO is for software, you will probably find product installation notes such as CDKEYS or serial numbers, in this text ﬁle."
- Garrett, Ben (2004-04-27). "Online Software Piracy of the Last Millennium" (pdf). defacto2.net.
- "NFO files by THG". Evidence of the very first NFO files by The Humble Guys.
- "Bubble_Bobble-THG". 1990-02-06.
- "Demo's from The Humble Guys".
- Hastik, Canan (2013). "Preventing Digital Subcultures from becoming Victims of the Technological Change". "Proceedings of CERC 2012". Cork: Collaborative European Research Conference. pp. 167–176. Archived from the original on 2013-12-13.
- ".NFO File Extension". "Windows may unsuccessfully attempt to use the Microsoft Help program in order to open the file; instead open the file directly with a text editor."