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Image Formats

Scanned images have to be stored in some kind of electronic format. The best formats are those standard formats that people can view with standard, free software. Also, the standard formats allow you to use OCR (optical character recognition) to convert text in documents to a word processing format or to index scanned documents for searching. 

The most common electronic image formats include: 

PDF - PDF is the Portable Document Format created by Adobe. Almost everyone is familiar with PDF files and has the free Adobe Acrobat Reader on their computer. (Download it here.) To create PDF documents and get the full benefits that can be built into PDF documents, you will need the full version of Adobe Acrobat. As of 4/14/01, Version 5.0 of Acrobat is available. However, one review I read indicated that the user actually preferred Version 4.0. Learn more about PDF at Planet PDF. GoBCL allows you to convert many kinds of documents to the popular Adobe PDF format even if you don't have the full Adobe Acrobat software.

TIFF - Not as flexible as PDF, but TIFF is a very common format. Used by many fax programs. 

JPEG - Usually used for things such as photographs and color images. Compression allows JPEG files to be made smaller for storage, at the expense of some loss of information or image quality. 

In general, avoid software that uses non-standard formats.

  1. We will probably always have standard software for viewing standard image formats. If you use a proprietary image format created in a particular software package, on the other hand, ten years from now that software might not be available. 

  2. Using non-standard software usually means that each person who needs to view the software either needs that software or needs a special viewer, making it much more difficult to share documents.

  3. If you want to send an images stored in a non-standard format, you may have to either send along the special reader or send the document in a "self-viewing" format that has the viewing software build in. Documents saved in a self-viewing format tend to be extremely large.   


Last updated: 05/18/01


Copyright 2001-2005 David A. Munn