Forgotten image formats worth knowin

Originally published at: Forgotten image formats worth knowin | Boing Boing


You want image formats? I got your (mostly GIS-specific) image formats right here:

It's a long list
# gdalinfo --formats
Supported Formats:
  BAG -raster- (rwv): Bathymetry Attributed Grid
  ECW -raster- (rw): ERDAS Compressed Wavelets (SDK 3.x)
  JP2ECW -raster,vector- (rw+v): ERDAS JPEG2000 (SDK 3.x)
  FITS -raster- (rw+): Flexible Image Transport System
  GMT -raster- (rw): GMT NetCDF Grid Format
  HDF4 -raster- (ros): Hierarchical Data Format Release 4
  HDF4Image -raster- (rw+): HDF4 Dataset
  HDF5 -raster- (rovs): Hierarchical Data Format Release 5
  HDF5Image -raster- (rov): HDF5 Dataset
  KEA -raster- (rw+v): KEA Image Format (.kea)
  MrSID -raster- (rov): Multi-resolution Seamless Image Database (MrSID)
  netCDF -raster,vector- (rw+s): Network Common Data Format
  VRT -raster- (rw+v): Virtual Raster
  DERIVED -raster- (ro): Derived datasets using VRT pixel functions
  GTiff -raster- (rw+vs): GeoTIFF
  NITF -raster- (rw+vs): National Imagery Transmission Format
  RPFTOC -raster- (rovs): Raster Product Format TOC format
  ECRGTOC -raster- (rovs): ECRG TOC format
  HFA -raster- (rw+v): Erdas Imagine Images (.img)
  SAR_CEOS -raster- (rov): CEOS SAR Image
  CEOS -raster- (rov): CEOS Image
  JAXAPALSAR -raster- (rov): JAXA PALSAR Product Reader (Level 1.1/1.5)
  GFF -raster- (rov): Ground-based SAR Applications Testbed File Format (.gff)
  ELAS -raster- (rw+v): ELAS
  AIG -raster- (rov): Arc/Info Binary Grid
  AAIGrid -raster- (rwv): Arc/Info ASCII Grid
  GRASSASCIIGrid -raster- (rov): GRASS ASCII Grid
  SDTS -raster- (rov): SDTS Raster
  DTED -raster- (rwv): DTED Elevation Raster
  PNG -raster- (rwv): Portable Network Graphics
  JPEG -raster- (rwv): JPEG JFIF
  MEM -raster- (rw+): In Memory Raster
  JDEM -raster- (rov): Japanese DEM (.mem)
  GIF -raster- (rwv): Graphics Interchange Format (.gif)
  BIGGIF -raster- (rov): Graphics Interchange Format (.gif)
  ESAT -raster- (rov): Envisat Image Format
  BSB -raster- (rov): Maptech BSB Nautical Charts
  XPM -raster- (rwv): X11 PixMap Format
  BMP -raster- (rw+v): MS Windows Device Independent Bitmap
  DIMAP -raster- (rov): SPOT DIMAP
  AirSAR -raster- (rov): AirSAR Polarimetric Image
  RS2 -raster- (rovs): RadarSat 2 XML Product
  SAFE -raster- (rov): Sentinel-1 SAR SAFE Product
  PCIDSK -raster,vector- (rw+v): PCIDSK Database File
  PCRaster -raster- (rw+): PCRaster Raster File
  ILWIS -raster- (rw+v): ILWIS Raster Map
  SGI -raster- (rw+v): SGI Image File Format 1.0
  SRTMHGT -raster- (rwv): SRTMHGT File Format
  Leveller -raster- (rw+v): Leveller heightfield
  Terragen -raster- (rw+v): Terragen heightfield
  ISIS3 -raster- (rw+v): USGS Astrogeology ISIS cube (Version 3)
  ISIS2 -raster- (rw+v): USGS Astrogeology ISIS cube (Version 2)
  PDS -raster- (rov): NASA Planetary Data System
  PDS4 -raster,vector- (rw+vs): NASA Planetary Data System 4
  VICAR -raster- (rov): MIPL VICAR file
  TIL -raster- (rov): EarthWatch .TIL
  ERS -raster- (rw+v): ERMapper .ers Labelled
  JP2OpenJPEG -raster,vector- (rwv): JPEG-2000 driver based on OpenJPEG library
  L1B -raster- (rovs): NOAA Polar Orbiter Level 1b Data Set
  FIT -raster- (rwv): FIT Image
  GRIB -raster- (rwv): GRIdded Binary (.grb, .grb2)
  RMF -raster- (rw+v): Raster Matrix Format
  WCS -raster- (rovs): OGC Web Coverage Service
  WMS -raster- (rwvs): OGC Web Map Service
  MSGN -raster- (rov): EUMETSAT Archive native (.nat)
  RST -raster- (rw+v): Idrisi Raster A.1
  INGR -raster- (rw+v): Intergraph Raster
  GSAG -raster- (rwv): Golden Software ASCII Grid (.grd)
  GSBG -raster- (rw+v): Golden Software Binary Grid (.grd)
  GS7BG -raster- (rw+v): Golden Software 7 Binary Grid (.grd)
  COSAR -raster- (rov): COSAR Annotated Binary Matrix (TerraSAR-X)
  TSX -raster- (rov): TerraSAR-X Product
  COASP -raster- (ro): DRDC COASP SAR Processor Raster
  R -raster- (rwv): R Object Data Store
  MAP -raster- (rov): OziExplorer .MAP
  KMLSUPEROVERLAY -raster- (rwv): Kml Super Overlay
  PDF -raster,vector- (rw+vs): Geospatial PDF
  Rasterlite -raster- (rwvs): Rasterlite
  MBTiles -raster,vector- (rw+v): MBTiles
  PLMOSAIC -raster- (ro): Planet Labs Mosaics API
  CALS -raster- (rwv): CALS (Type 1)
  WMTS -raster- (rwv): OGC Web Map Tile Service
  SENTINEL2 -raster- (rovs): Sentinel 2
  MRF -raster- (rw+v): Meta Raster Format
  PNM -raster- (rw+v): Portable Pixmap Format (netpbm)
  DOQ1 -raster- (rov): USGS DOQ (Old Style)
  DOQ2 -raster- (rov): USGS DOQ (New Style)
  PAux -raster- (rw+v): PCI .aux Labelled
  MFF -raster- (rw+v): Vexcel MFF Raster
  MFF2 -raster- (rw+): Vexcel MFF2 (HKV) Raster
  FujiBAS -raster- (rov): Fuji BAS Scanner Image
  GSC -raster- (rov): GSC Geogrid
  FAST -raster- (rov): EOSAT FAST Format
  BT -raster- (rw+v): VTP .bt (Binary Terrain) 1.3 Format
  LAN -raster- (rw+v): Erdas .LAN/.GIS
  CPG -raster- (rov): Convair PolGASP
  IDA -raster- (rw+v): Image Data and Analysis
  NDF -raster- (rov): NLAPS Data Format
  EIR -raster- (rov): Erdas Imagine Raw
  DIPEx -raster- (rov): DIPEx
  LCP -raster- (rwv): FARSITE v.4 Landscape File (.lcp)
  GTX -raster- (rw+v): NOAA Vertical Datum .GTX
  LOSLAS -raster- (rov): NADCON .los/.las Datum Grid Shift
  NTv1 -raster- (rov): NTv1 Datum Grid Shift
  NTv2 -raster- (rw+vs): NTv2 Datum Grid Shift
  CTable2 -raster- (rw+v): CTable2 Datum Grid Shift
  ACE2 -raster- (rov): ACE2
  SNODAS -raster- (rov): Snow Data Assimilation System
  KRO -raster- (rw+v): KOLOR Raw
  ROI_PAC -raster- (rw+v): ROI_PAC raster
  RRASTER -raster- (rw+v): R Raster
  BYN -raster- (rw+v): Natural Resources Canada's Geoid
  ARG -raster- (rwv): Azavea Raster Grid format
  RIK -raster- (rov): Swedish Grid RIK (.rik)
  USGSDEM -raster- (rwv): USGS Optional ASCII DEM (and CDED)
  GXF -raster- (rov): GeoSoft Grid Exchange Format
  NWT_GRD -raster- (rw+v): Northwood Numeric Grid Format .grd/.tab
  NWT_GRC -raster- (rov): Northwood Classified Grid Format .grc/.tab
  ADRG -raster- (rw+vs): ARC Digitized Raster Graphics
  SRP -raster- (rovs): Standard Raster Product (ASRP/USRP)
  BLX -raster- (rwv): Magellan topo (.blx)
  PostGISRaster -raster- (rws): PostGIS Raster driver
  SAGA -raster- (rw+v): SAGA GIS Binary Grid (.sdat, .sg-grd-z)
  IGNFHeightASCIIGrid -raster- (rov): IGN France height correction ASCII Grid
  XYZ -raster- (rwv): ASCII Gridded XYZ
  HF2 -raster- (rwv): HF2/HFZ heightfield raster
  OZI -raster- (rov): OziExplorer Image File
  CTG -raster- (rov): USGS LULC Composite Theme Grid
  E00GRID -raster- (rov): Arc/Info Export E00 GRID
  ZMap -raster- (rwv): ZMap Plus Grid
  NGSGEOID -raster- (rov): NOAA NGS Geoid Height Grids
  IRIS -raster- (rov): IRIS data (.PPI, .CAPPi etc)
  PRF -raster- (rov): Racurs PHOTOMOD PRF
  RDA -raster- (ro): DigitalGlobe Raster Data Access driver
  EEDAI -raster- (ros): Earth Engine Data API Image
  DAAS -raster- (ro): Airbus DS Intelligence Data As A Service driver
  SIGDEM -raster- (rwv): Scaled Integer Gridded DEM .sigdem
  DB2ODBC -raster,vector- (rw+): IBM DB2 Spatial Database
  GPKG -raster,vector- (rw+vs): GeoPackage
  CAD -raster,vector- (rovs): AutoCAD Driver
  PLSCENES -raster,vector- (ro): Planet Labs Scenes API
  NGW -raster,vector- (rw+s): NextGIS Web
  GenBin -raster- (rov): Generic Binary (.hdr Labelled)
  ENVI -raster- (rw+v): ENVI .hdr Labelled
  EHdr -raster- (rw+v): ESRI .hdr Labelled
  ISCE -raster- (rw+v): ISCE raster
  HTTP -raster,vector- (ro): HTTP Fetching Wrapper

Interesting article. At one time or another, I used many of those file formats. These days it’s all jpg, gif, and png files I work with.


I will call your jpeg, and raise you tiff file.


I remember encountering an old version of POV-Ray on a magazine coverdisk some 25 years ago that produced .TGA files. Also included was a program to convert TGAs to GIFs, as the authors were quite insistent that the PCs of the time would be unlikely to handle TGAs.

And I remember RIPscrip as well. RIPterm 1.54 was a pretty great little terminal program; Telegraphix really dropped the ball with version 2.0, especially since it adopted a new format that wasn’t backwards-compatible.

And I remember the fuss about JPEG2000 and MNG and APNG, each of which was surely going to be the wave of the future. (Remember all the campaigns at the time to “burn all GIFs”, on account of Compuserve’s patents?)


The encyclopedia of graphics file formats was very useful-- I’ve consulted my copy many times over the years, when I needed to roll my own file format readers, (The last time I’ve messed about with such code was decoding the LAS/PAT format used by WildGinger’s sewing pattern designer programs. Never did figure out groups.)
Shame the book wasn’t updated.


There was a “.nap” filetype? I need more naps in my life. I need this filetype.

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.sgi, .rgb, .rgba …



What, no .neo?

Working on VRChat avatars and worlds (Unity engine) I was really shocked to find lots of .tga images being used.

So… not quite forgotten.

I do miss .iff files from the amiga though.


Putting BMP in there is a tad provocative, too. There are many BMP files on my PC, still (majority seem to be icon files for GPX files - satnav stuff)


The author’s source was this book:

which I’ve opened up to the Atari ST section. Enjoy.

I can’t tell whether this book is completely supplanted by wikipedia. This book explained how to decode and encode each of the formats, supplying the headers and tags as c structs, and if wikipedia has equivalent coverage of a broader range of file formats, then Murray’s book is obsolete, even for software archeologists.


Probably not intended as a reply to me?

No, my mouse slipped.

But you could try to write a decoder and check all your bitmap files for consistency, or lack of same.

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I cooooould… but … hmmmmm. Nope!

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Ahh, IFF ILBM - an image format designed for when memory was so tight that you couldn’t afford to allocate an entire byte to a pixel’s value in the colour table. Genius.


I feel like I still see TIFF on occasion. Certainly more recently than most of the others.

RIP was a real weird one. Let you get EGA-style graphics in your BBS door games, which was… good, I guess? I hadn’t thought about RIPTerm in quite a while before this.

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pepperridge_farm (2)

I have to say, quite a few of these are not only familiar, but some of these I wasn’t even aware they had fallen out of use.

Also, it’s kind of weird to talk about VRML as an image format, though since, well, it isn’t one. I remember when Mark Pesce gave a presentation about this cool new 3D web stuff they had come up with in '94, or thereabouts. I immediately thought, “Cool!” followed not too long thereafter by, “This is never going to take off, is it?” after spending some time playing around with it A fair amount of effort was spent trying to make it a thing. This whole “Metaverse” idea gives me flashbacks to that…

Seems like there’s a certain amount of trolling involved, perhaps, as some of these file formats continue to have the same sorts of (niche) uses they always did. (In fact, some of them may be more widely used in those niches than ever before.)


.iff and .anim forever.

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