ARCHIVED: What is the TIFF graphics file format?

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Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is a variable-resolution bitmapped image format developed by Aldus (now part of Adobe) in 1986. TIFF is very common for transporting color or gray-scale images into page layout applications, but is less suited to delivering web content.

Note the following about TIFF:

  • TIFF files are large and of very high quality. Baseline TIFF images are highly portable; most graphics, desktop publishing, and word processing applications understand them.
  • The TIFF specification is readily extensible, though this comes at the price of some of its portability. Many applications incorporate their own extensions, but a number of application-independent extensions are recognized by most programs.
  • Four types of baseline TIFF images are available: bilevel (black and white), gray scale, palette (i.e., indexed), and RGB (i.e., true color). RGB images may store up to 16.7 million colors. Palette and gray-scale images are limited to 256 colors or shades. A common extension of TIFF also allows for CMYK images.
  • TIFF files may or may not be compressed. A number of methods may be used to compress TIFF files, including the Huffman and LZW algorithms. Even compressed, TIFF files are usually much larger than similar GIF or JPEG files.
  • Because the files are so large and because there are so many possible variations of each TIFF file type, few web browsers can display them without plug-ins.

For more, see Adobe's latest TIFF specification.

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Last modified on 2018-01-18 12:04:09.