Choosing The Right File Format/Quick Guide

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Quick Guide to recommended formats[edit]

For an explanation of terminology read the section "Formats for storing electronic information".

Data Type Preferred formats Common OpenSource applications Common proprietary applications
Documents
  • Plain text, encoded with either ASCII (limited to the English alphabet) or Unicode UTF-8
  • RTF (Rich Text Format) - Proprietary, open specification by Microsoft
  • PDF (Portable Document Format) - Proprietary, open specification by Adobe
  • EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) - Proprietary, open specification by Adobe
  • OOXML aka DOCX (Office Open XML) - controversially non-proprietary, open specification by Ecma International and ISO/IEC
  • ODF (OpenDocument Format) - non-proprietary, open specification by OASIS and ISO
Notepad++, gedit, kate, AbiWord, OpenOffice.org Writer, KWord, PDFCreator, Geany, vim, emacs Notepad, Adobe Acrobat, Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Star Office
Spreadsheets
  • ODS (OpenDocument Spreadsheet) - non-proprietary, open specification by OASIS and ISO
  • OOXML aka XLSX (Office Open XML) - controversially non-proprietary, open specification by Ecma International and ISO/IEC
  • CSV (Comma Separated Values) - Non-standard conventional format where a comma is used to separate each value
OpenOffice.org Calc, Lotus 1-2-3, Gnumeric, KSpread Microsoft Excel, Corel Quattro Pro
Web pages
  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language) or XML (eXtensible Markup Language) - Non-proprietary, open specifications by W3C
Abiword, OpenOffice2.0, Mozilla composer, Quanta, Geany Dreamweaver, Adobe GoLive
Graphics (raster & vector)
  • PNG (Portable Network Graphic) - non-proprietary, open specification. Released as ISO/IEC 15948:2003 and W3C recommendation (ref)
  • JPEG/JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) Non-proprietary, open specification by the Joint Photographic Experts Group
  • DjVuLibre (pronounced "déjà vu") Non-proprietary, open specification by lizardtech
  • CGM (Computer Graphics Metafile) - Non-proprietary, open specification by ISO/IEC
  • SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) - Non-proprietary, open specification by W3C
  • VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) - Non-proprietary, open specification by W3C
  • DXF (Drawing eXchange Format) - Proprietary, partially open specification by Autodesk
Gimp, TuxPaint, OpenOffice.org Draw, Blender, Inkscape, kolourpaint Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, 3DStudioMax, AutoCAD
Audio Audio has containers with codecs in together they form a format.
  • Ogg container with vorbis, flac, speex and others
  • Flac container with flac audio.
  • MP3 Can contain mp3 audio.
Audacity, Ardour Adobe Soundbooth
Video Video also has containers with codecs in together they form a format.
  • Ogg container with Theora
  • WebM container with VP8 video compression format and vorbis audio compression format
  • MP4 container with h.264 video compression format and mp3 audio compression format
Openshot , KDEnlive Adobe Premiere , Windows Movie Maker
Database Databases do not use files in the normal sense, however a good database can output its content structured with SQL (Structured Query Language) - an ANSI/ISO standard. It is also important that it supports ODBC (Open Data Base Connectivity) PostgreSQL, MySQL, Firebird and InterBase, Kexi Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Sybase
Encrypted files
  • OpenPGP - Non-proprietary, open specification, OpenSSL
GnuPG (GNU Privacy Guard) PGP (Pretty Good Privacy)