file format

Definition: The way in which a software program stores data: determined by the structure and organisation of the data, specific codes e.g. for indicating the start and end of a segment of data together with any special techniques used such as compression. * Formats which are specific and optimised (for speed, compactness etc) to an application program are called 'native' e.g. Photoshop format is native to Adobe Photoshop.
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Some formats, thank goodness, were designed from the outset to be usable across different application programs: e.g. TIFF, JPEG, PostScript or even across different platforms. But wait: (they keep quiet about this) note that new versions of a program usually create what is effectively a new native file format -- which cannot be read by earlier versions of the program. This is particularly true of digital cameras producing a new raw format with every new sensor. If you want an earlier version to use the new file, you usually have to save it in the old file format, naturally at the risk of losing new features.

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