What Is an SO File?

How to Open, Edit, and Convert SO Files

Screenshot of SO files in Ubuntu
SO Files.

A file with the .SO file extension is a Shared Library file. They contain information that can be used by one or more programs to offload resources so that the application(s) calling the SO file doesn't have to actually provide the SO file

For example, one SO file might contain information and functions on how to quickly search through the whole computer. Several programs can then call upon that SO file to use that feature in their own respective programs.

However, instead of having to compile it in the program's own binary code, the SO file serves as an extension that the program just has to call on in order to use its utilities. The SO file can even be updated/replaced later without those programs having to make any changes to their own code.

Shared Library files are similar to Dynamic Link Library (DLL) files used in Windows and Mach-O Dynamic Library (DYLIB) files on macOS, except that SO files are found on Linux-based systems and the Android OS.

Note: SO doesn't just refer to a Shared Library file. It's also an acronym for server options, service object, system overload, send only, system outage, serial output, and stuck open. However, don't confuse it with OS, the abbreviation for operating system.

How to Open an SO File

SO files can technically be opened with GNU Compiler Collection but these types of files aren't intended to be viewed or used like you might another type of file.

Instead, they're just placed in an appropriate folder and used automatically by other programs via Linux's dynamic link loader.

However, you might be able to read the SO file as a text file by opening it in a text editor like Leafpad, gedit, KWrite, or Geany if you're on Linux, or Notepad++ on Windows.

It's unlikely, though, that the text will be in a human readable format.

How to Convert SO Files

We're not aware of any programs that can convert SO to DLL for use on Windows and considering what these files are what they do, it's not likely there's one out there. It's also not a straightforward task to convert SO to other file formats like JAR or A (a Stat Library file).

You might be able to "convert" SO files to JAR files by just zipping them into an archive file format like .ZIP and then renaming it to .JAR.

More Information on SO Files

The name of a Shared Library file is called a soname. It starts with "lib" at the beginning followed by a name for the library and then the .SO file extension. Some Shared Library files also have other numbers appended to the end after ".SO" to indicate a version number.

Here are just a few examples: libdaemon.SO.14, libchromeXvMC.SO.0, libecal-1.2.SO.100, libgdata.SO.2, and libgnome-bluetooth.SO.4.0.1.

The number at the end allows there to be multiple versions of the same file without causing issues with overlapping names. These files are normally stored in /lib/ or /usr/lib/.

On an Android device, SO files are stored within the APK under /lib//. Here, "ABI" can be a folder called armeabi, armeabi-v7a, arm64-v8a, mips, mips64, x86, or x86_64.

The SO files within the correct folder that pertains to the device, are what's used when the apps is installed via the APK file.

Shared Library files are sometimes called dynamically linked shared object libraries, shared objects, shared libraries, and shared object libraries.

If you're interested in learning more about shared libraries in Linux, see The Linux Documentation Project, or check out ph0b's for more on SO files used with Android, including various things that could go wrong with them.

Still Can't Open the File?

An obvious reason you might not be able to open an SO file is because it's not really an SO file.

You might just have a file that shares some common letters as that file extension. Similar sounding file extensions do not necessarily mean that the file formats are similar, nor that they might work with the same programs.

For example, the ISO file format is a popular format that looks a lot like ".SO" at the end of the file, but the two are not related and can not open with the same programs.

Another example can be seen with SOL files, which are Flash Local Shared Object files. They're used with Adobe Flash and are unrelated to SO files.