The next time someone in the office says they want a TIFF, it doesn’t mean they want to have a small argument. They’re referring to the file and image format. And while many people these days are using the PDF format instead, there are still many reasons to take advantage of TIFF benefits.

TIFF, or Tagged Image File Format, was developed by Microsoft and Aldus in 1987 as an industry standard image format, particularly intended for use with scanners and other devices. Adobe bought Aldus in 1994, and now owns the rights to the format. It was most recently updated in 1992 as TIFF 6, and Adobe has indicated that it doesn’t plan to update it, preferring instead its own format, PDF, the Portable Document Format. The advantage is that standards that last a long time tend to be well supported and understood.

Here are some other advantages to TIFF:

Nonproprietary. While ownership of the PDF file format itself has been transferred to the International Standards Organization, certain functions with PDF files, such as annotation, require the use of proprietary software. TIFF is an open standard, meaning that any program that supports it has access to all its features.

Preferred worldwide. Because of its nonproprietary nature, the TIFF file format is accepted as the preferred digital archival format around the world because it is an open standard. There are a variety of freely available TIFF viewers available and every computer can natively view TIFF files.

ASCII support. Scanning documents as TIFF images and extracting their contents as ASCII text is the only way to maintain “eye readability” in a digital format. That is, it produces a “text” file that is readable by the naked eye because it only contains the letters a-z, numbers, carriage returns, and punctuation marks.  In contrast, file formats that store information as a binary file are not readable by the naked eye because they contain the ASCII characters in addition to binary codes.  Any file that one can read with a common editor is considered an ASCII file. 

Developer support. There is a large development community creating tools for open standards such as TIFF, spurring innovation. A wide variety of applications support TIFF, including scanning, publishing, page layout, word processing, optical character recognition (OCR), and image-manipulation programs.

Backwards compatibility. The bane of the record manager’s existence is a large backlog of electronic files in file formats that no longer exist. Consequently, it’s important to continue to support older formats that are still in use. Most state and local entities and software developers of records management applications have selected TIFF as an archival standard, making it a familiar format across many different industries. Documents that were archived 20 years ago can still be read today, including through modern interfaces such as smartphones, tablets, Web applications, and collaboration portals.

Graphics support. Because TIFF was originally intended as a format for storing and manipulating raster bitmap images, it offers a large number of graphics features, including:

·       A wide range of color spaces and compression schemes, specified in dedicated tags

·       Support for grayscale, palette color, and RGB full-color images

·       Ability to save multi-page documents to one TIFF file, though it also offers single-page granularity when just one page needs to be sent or stored, or when pages will need to be added or deleted from a document

·       High-quality lossless data compression, and the ability to render files as PNG files, to take up less storage and network space

Ultimately, what’s important to remember is that you don’t have to choose between PDF and TIFF. Just like you don’t have to choose a hammer or a screwdriver, sometimes you’ll want to use one, and sometimes the other. Moreover, unlike a hammer and screwdriver, you can easily convert PDF files to TIFF and vice versa.

 So, if you want to have a TIFF, there’s no need to fight about it.

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