How many memes have you seen with clients and file formats? Too many, Am I right? If you’re like me, you can’t help to laugh/be annoyed.
But should you be judging? Are you sure you’re not doing the exact same thing and using the wrong format to export, store and send your work?
Just in case, let’s go over some of the most popular and relevant file formats for storing images, audio, and video, and for compression.
File formats for images
Tagged Image File Format, also known as TIFF, was created by Aldus Corporation in 1986, and it’s a format supported by the majority of desktop applications.
It allows for storing raster graphic images, and thanks to that, it’s most commonly used for photography.
It’s a good idea to use it for editing photographs since it will keep all the previous altered data from Photoshop. That way, it’s possible to redo or alter previous steps.
This Graphics Interchange Format was developed in 1987. It spread widely on the web because it’s supported and portable between applications and operating systems.
Even though it does not support audio, it can be used for videos. That’s one of the reasons why GIFs are booming on the Internet.
Joint Photographic Experts Group created JPEG in 1992.
Since its creation date coincided with the Internet’s increasing spread during the 90s, JPEG allowed the propagation of digital images and photos across the web.
It’s still one of the most common image formats, and one you use to store photographs once you’ve edited.
A RAW image, or most precisely, image capture in RAW, it’s one that was capture directly from the camera sensor and hasn’t been processed yet. So you actually don’t have a photograph. What you have is data that can be processed and transformed into an image format such as TIFF or JPEG.
As a designer, it’s great to receive a file in RAW. It will give you the certainty that the image hasn’t been retouched yet, and that you have the full amount of data at your disposal.
Also known as a bitmap, it’s used to store digital images regardless of the display device.
It can store two-dimensional images in monochrome and color, with data compression, alpha channels, and profiles.
The Portable Network Graphics is an improvement of the GIF format.
It supports transparency and RGB color palettes, and that makes it the preferred format for transferring lighter images from the Internet.
As a designer, this format is appropriate for vector images with transparent backgrounds such as logos.
It’s a vector image format that supports interactivity and animation.
It was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium in 1999.
Since most recent web browsers support SVG and they can be defined by XML text files, it’s the preferred file format for website images.
Other advantages for the web include being indexed, scripted, and compressed.
It was developed by Google.
Their idea is to use this format instead of GIF since it can support both lossy and lossless compression. This will translates into file reduction as well as 24-bit color with transparency.
Personally, I haven’t used this format, but I’m curious to see if it will replace GIFs.
Video and audio file formats
WAV or WAVE
It’s a format developed by IBM and Microsoft for storing sound. It’s usually the main format used in Window systems for uncompressed audio.
It was developed in 1992 as part of Windows software and carries both video and audio information that can be synchronized.
AVI is a format that divides data into three blocks. The first block contains information about the video as width, height, and frame rate. The second one holds the audio and video, and the last block is optional and indexes the remaining file data.
It’s a coding format for digital audio. It uses lossy compression to discard some data that it’s hardly perceived by human ears, and, for that reason, it makes files a lot smaller than uncompressed audio.
During the 90s, it was the preferred audio format, and it even led to portable devices being named after this format.
At the same time, it was also the most controversial one, since it was linked to piracy and copyright infringement.
It’s still one of the most generalized audio formats that can be read universally across different devices.
It’s a format that contains digital multimedia used for video and audio, but also for subtitles and still images.
Some devices also have been named after this file format, like in the MP3 case.
File formats for compression
The Portable Document Format was developed by Adobe in the 90s to display documents such as text and images, independently from different software, hardware, and operating systems.
Other than simple text and graphics, PDFs can have interactive elements such as video, notes, form-fields, and bookmarks, to name a few.
It’s a file format created for archiving that supports lossless compression.
It can hold one or multiple files that have been compressed, and it’s supported by free software on both Windows and Mac.
ZIP is useful to send multiple big files to clients, considering that it will reduce their size and can be easily opened.
Now that we’ve seen the main file formats, you can now rest at ease that you’re using the right ones for their intended purposes and won’t become an Internet meme.
As an alternative, you can also share this post with your clients. I’m sure your future self will thank you for that.