What is a TIF File?

TIF is a file format for copying and storing images on your home computer. The letters stand for tagged image file and the code was initially developed to standardize the way that desktop scanners store images. The original TIF files could only be saved in black and white images but over the years it was expanded to include grayscale and now color images as well.

The TIF file is the most flexible of the different formats available for saving images and is used quite extensively in the print industry. It was originally created by a company that produced software for desktop publishing which was later bought out by Adobe Systems the developer of Photoshop programs. Adobe also developed the software that is most commonly used to read documents transmitted electronically.

The beauty of storing images in a .tif file is that it will be recognized universally by a wide variety of computer programs and platforms. TIF files are compressed in a way that preserves the image without any reduction in quality referred to as lossless compression. JPEG files which are used in digital photography are lossy compression which means the image will degenerate the more it is edited and resaved.

The drawback to working with tif files are that they can be very large and will take up a great deal of space on a home PC. While the size of the file is a drawback for some, for others who need a great deal of detail in their images it is a big plus. A jpeg will work well if sent by email or posted on the web but when editing of the image is required or if the image needs to be blown up then a tif file will produce much better results. Medical images of test results are often transmitted as tif files because they will provide the greatest amount of detail needed to make a proper diagnosis. The detail that is provided by the tif image is also the reason that this is the most widely used file format by publishers of newspapers and magazines.