What is the difference between TIFF, GIF, JPG, JPEG, PNG, and a BMP file?

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Sometimes it can get confusing when dealing image file formats. Which file format to use for what picture or graphic? Its all too technical for me so I have tried to explain the difference between them all in my own easy way. Each image file format has its own unique features. I guess it can be important to know what file format you should save your photos in or maybe what picture you should upload to the Internet. I have learned some valuable lessons over the years and it actually gets more difficult when all the new digital cameras create such high quality images. You not only have to be aware of what file format your image is, but you also need to be aware of what size it is?

You have properly run into the problem of trying to send a photo through an e-mail and realizing that it is too large to send. Or maybe someone has sent you an e-mail with an extra large picture in it where you had to scroll down to see the whole picture. I use a simple little trick to resize my pictures even if I am not sending them through an e-mail. You can also resize photos with Picasa, a free program.


Bitmap. This was probably the first type of digital image format that I can remember. Every picture on a computer seemed to be a BMP. In Windows XP the Paint program saves its images automatically in BMP, however now in Windows Vista images are saved to JPEG. BMP is the basis platform for many other file types.


(Joint Photographic Experts Group) Jpeg format is used for colour photographs, or any pictures with many blends or gradients. It is not good with sharp edges and tends to blur them a bit. This format became popular with the invention of the digital camera. Most, if not all, digital cameras download photos to your computer as a Jpeg file. Obviously the digital camera manufacturers see the value in high quality images that ultimately take up less space.


(Graphics Interchange Format) Gif format is best used for text, line drawings, screen shots, cartoons, and animations. Gif is limited to a total number of 256 colors or less. It is commonly used for fast loading web pages. It also makes a great banner or logo for your webpage. Animated pictures are also saved in GIF format. For example, a flashing banner would be saved as a Gif file.


(Portable Networks Graphic) Apparently this is one of the best image formats, however it was not always compatible with all web browsers or image software. Now days it is the best image format to use for website. I use .png for logo’s and screen shots.


( Tagged Image File Format) This file format has not been updated since 1992 and is now owned by Adobe. It can store an image and data (tag) in the one file. TIFF also stores files with virtually no compression and therefore is good for storing images that need to be edited and re-saved without suffering a compression loss. This file is commonly used for scanning, faxing, word processing, and so on. It is no longer a common file format to use with your digital photos as a jpeg is great quality and takes up less space.

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  1. says

    I’m glad to have found these clear explanations and now I see why I’m having some problems with resizing and saving my JPEG files as PNG in batch processing. Since the software I’ve seen doesn’t appear to allow you to batch resize or rename files in anything other than JPEG, TIFF, or PSD files. Does anyone know if there’s a way to do this?

  2. says

    And here comes the fun part. Has anybody thought about how to create a JPEG? It turns out that there are libraries and there are few of them:

    • Adobe uses its own libraries, there are several, for example, Adobe Photoshop, Save for web – used for saving in the WEB.
    • LibJPEG . Use almost all the programs that are able to save in JPEG, including Adobe Fireworks. The library has a very interesting LibJPEG program – JPEGTran (optimizes the image without losing quality.) It makes sense to use it if you create a JPEG image in Photoshop or Illustrator and optimize through JPEGTran, you get the maximum effect of optimization, because it appears that you have two libraries. Unfortunately, I have failed to get Photoshop to save a JPEG, without loss of quality.

    Remember when we resaved image in JPEG, it turned out that the new image is larger than the original. This is due to the libraries’ specifications.

  3. says

    PNG generally produces better-looking images with smaller file sizes than GIF for the same kinds of limited-color images. Really old browsers, such as IE 3, don’t support the PNG format, but most Web designers now choose this format over GIF because so few people use such old browser. Browsers as recent as IE6 don’t display transparent PNG files properly, which is unfortunate because PNG files tend to handle transparency better.

  4. says

    Hi Mitz – I had the same problem as Janet Walz and, like her, I am delighted to have found your really helpful summary.
    Thanks again for explaing the relative merits of these different formats – it has changed a crisis into a solution.
    Best Regards
    David Potter

  5. Janet Waltz says

    After a frustrating and fruitless search through Microsoft’s “Help and Support Center” for this information, I gave up on them and thankfully found this page on your website. It was exactly what I was looking for – the right amount of information (not too little, not too much) and was easy to understand. From now on I’ll come to your website instead of wasting my time combing through Microsoft’s “Help” information trying to find what I need. Very often I end up really aggravated with Microsoft’s “Help” because either I can’t find anything addressing my question, or I find a little bit of information, but it’s not thorough enough to answer my question. THANK YOU!