About file formats

How shall we think in choosing file formats? Is there any "best format"?

Plan for use of formats

To make sure that digital objects can be read also in the future demands for a preseration plan.

Necessary efforts needs to be taken before a file format gets unreadable. This requires knowledge about the status on every used format, what arrangement need to be done in every single case and knowledge about what formats the archive consists of.

To cope with managment of huge amounts of data it is required to carry on with preservation planning continuously and to automate as many activities as possible.

What formats are best for archiving?

All file formats can be used in archives, and no format solves the archiving problem alone. But some formats are better, some are worse when it comes to archiving.

Selection of formats need consideration among what the organisation requires for and what - at that present time - is best for archiving aspects. Most important is the control you get from having a preservation plan.

In general you should strive for using open formats. At this moment the Swedish National Archives rates following formats suited for archiving:

  • PDF/A for text documents
  • TIFF for images
  • XML for meta data structures
Besides theese also DjVu as a wieving format for web files.

It is important to emphasise that the preservation plan must result in a decision of what formats to use in the specific organisation, and it it not at all certain it will be the formats mentioned earlier.

Published: 27 November 2008

Updated: 25 November 2009

Luleå University of Technology