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Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)

TIFF ( Tagged Image File Format ) is a raster file format for digital images, created by Aldus (Aldus Corporation was the developer of the PageMaker software) for use with PostScript (–PS- is a page description language used primarily in the electronic and desktop publishing areas) printing and now controlled by Adobe. TIFF became the de facto standard graphics format for high colour depth (32-bit) graphics, is widely used in image manipulation applications such as Photoshop, Desktop publishing (DTP), and scanning, and can be directly manipulated by PostScript.

Tiff is a format defined by tags and the tags can contain different options. TIFF is commonly produced by scanners, fax machines, and other imaging hardware and software.


TIFF ( Tagged Image File Format ) is a file format for bitmapped images often used to exchange such files between dissimilar computers and by scanners when converting pictures to computer form. The name comes from the specification when describes how to store information in blocks called tags. TIFF is primarily designed for raster data interchange.

The first version of the TIFF specification was published by Aldus Corporation in the fall of 1986, after a series of meetings with various scanner manufacturers and software developers. It did not have a revision number but should have been labelled Revision 3.0 since there were two major earlier draft releases. Revision 4.0 contained mostly minor enhancements and was released in April 1987. Revision 5.0, released in October 1988, added support for palette color images and LZW compression. Revision 6.0 major enhancements include: CMYK image definition, a revised RGB colorimetry section, YCbCr image definition, CIEL*a*b* image definition, Tiled image definition, JPEG compression.

TIFF is a very extensible format, and there are a number of efforts to extend TIFF for specific applications by registering new tags with Adobe. For this reason, there are a number of different TIFF variations: GeoTIFF, Adobe Extensions for PageMaker, JPEG-in-TIFF, Zip-in-TIFF, TIFF Class F Revised Specification, TIFF/IT Prepress Interchange Standard, TIFF enhancements for Adobe PageMaker 6.0, RichTIFF, Wang TIFF Image-Annotation extensions, and Kodak TIFF extensions.

TIFF includes a number of options that can be used to include all sorts of image formats in the file; this is the purpose of the "tags" that are included in the header. Many of these tags indicate the simple geometry of the image, like its size, but others define how the data is arranged and various compression options. For instance, TIFF can be used as a container for JPEG or RLE (Run-Length Encoding) compressed images, and in this respect is completely universal.

However, when TIFF was first introduced, programmers were unwilling to invest the time to support all of the options. As a result the lowest common denominator soon became "the" TIFF, and even today the vast majority of TIFF files, and the code that reads them, are based on a simple 32-bit uncompressed image.

Why use TIFF?

The TIFF format is a suitable format for professional-quality images (storage, transfer, display, and printing of raster images such as clipart, logotypes, scanned documents, etc). The advantages are:

  • Is the most widely supported graphics file format in the printing industry.
  • Universally compatible with all computing platforms. Its suitability for a wide range of applications and its independence of computer's architecture, operating system, and graphics hardware.
  • Can use very large color palettes for professional-quality images. TIFF allows color resolution up to 48 bits (a 16-bit field each for R, G, and B), either as full RGB color or in a 64k-color palette.
  • Much better for image scaling than JPG or GIF.
  • Works well with paint/image editing applications.
  • Prints well on postscript and non-postscript printers.
  • Best format for archiving images.

The TIFF format is an extensible format. This means that a programmer can modify the original specification to add functionality or to meet specific needs (but, modifying the specification can lead to incompatibilities between different types of TIFF pictures).

On the other hand, does not recommend converting electronic documents to TIFF because:

  • Large File Size, TIFF files are rendered pixel-by-pixel and are often large files; however, they are usually lower-resolution than the original electronic or paper document.  Compression (zipping) does not reduce TIFF file sizes as much as other formats.
  • Lack of Intelligence, TIFF is purely graphical; in order to search, select or index text, the file must be further processed by OCR (Optical Character Recognition).
  • Lack of Convertability, TIFF does not easily convert into other formats.  Accessing textual information requires OCR, and OCR is well known to be less than 100% accurate, requiring time-consuming proofreading of files to correct garbled text or numbers.
  • Lack of Web Browser Support, TIFF does not view with the usual web browsers.  .

File Extension and others notes:

  • .TIF:........ TIF image.
  • .TIFF:..... TIF image.

The MIME media type for TIF is image/tif (defined by IANA), also: image/x-tif, image/tiff, image/x-tiff.

Web Browsers Support: Is necessary choice and installing a plug-in.

References & Background information:

TIFF version 6.0 (ISO FDIS 12639). TIFF version 6.0 (ISO FDIS 12639), Graphic Technology - Prepress digital data exchange - Tag Image File Format for Image Technology (TIFF/IT), 30 May 1998. The scope of this standard shall be for data format for exchange of full fidelity monochrome and colour raster images, where compression is only required as an option (Free copy next link).

TIFF version 6.0 Specification. Adobe Official sitepdf [389KB]. Describes TIFF, a tag-based file format for storing and interchanging raster image (3 June 1992).

RFC1314. A File Format for the Exchange of Images in the Internet. Concerns suggested standards for using TIFF for document interchange on the Internet. The standard is compared with the "TIFF Class F" fax scheme.

RFC2301. TIFF_FX Format Specification. Describes the TIFF (Tag Image File Format)    representation of image data specified by the ITU-T Recommendations for black-and-white and color facsimile. This file format specification is commonly known as TIFF-FX.

TIFF version 5.0. Old version TIFF specification.

TIFF version 4.0. Old version TIFF specification.

Adobe PHOTOSHOP. The official site of the last version of PHOTOSHOP.

CorelDRAW. The official site of the last version of CorelDRAW.

MS VISIO 2002 Standard Edition. The official site of VISIO 2002 SE.


Related tools and services

  • Recommended Authoring Graphics Tools:
    • Adobe Photoshop 7. (For discussion: Attention nowadays is Status EV)
    • CorelDraw 10. (For discussion: Attention nowadays is Class C)
  • Recommended Authoring Graphics Tools (for non-professional use):
    • Microsoft Visio 2002.
    • Graphical tools provided by the operating system or Office (Paint 5.1, Photoed 3.0).

Evolution of standard

  • TIFF is a very extensible format, and there are a number of efforts to extend TIFF for specific applications by registering new tags with Adobe. For this reason, there are a number of different TIFF variations and it can increase.


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  • How to decide the correct format for an Image.

Roles (concerned)