File formats

Recommended file formats

Not all software lasts forever. Therefore, it's worthwhile to consider the following:

  • If you have data in a format that can only be read by one software, what happens when that software is no longer available? 
  • If you have to pay for that software – then anyone who wants to use your data must pay for that software, too. 
  • What happens when the format is no longer used? 

To solve these problems, use standard formats that will be around for a long time. Generally, the best formats are open standard and have good support in open-source software and multiple independent software suites. Recommended file formats are presented in the following table.

Text format File extension
Acrobat PDF/A .pdf    
Comma-Separated Values .csv
Open Office Formats .odt, .ods, .odp
Plain Text (US-ASCII, UTF-8) .txt
XML .xml
Image / Graphic formats File extension
JPEG .jpg
JPEG2000 .jp2
PNG .png
SVG 1.1 (no java binding) .svg
TIFF .tif, .tiff
Audio formats File extension
AIFF .aif, .aiff
WAVE .wav
Motion formats File extension
AVI (uncompressed) .avi
Motion JPEG2000 .mj2, .mjp2

See best practices for file formats from Stanford University Library.

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