Why TIFF Is A Good Archival Format
TIFF is a raster format, meaning it is a collection of
pixels (dots) that are either on or off, with each pixel
having a specific assigned color. This set of on/off dots
create a visually recognizable representation of the
geometry. It is the lowest possible (simplest) representation of the image.
The general rule of formats is the more the complex
the data representation, the shorter the lifespan of the format. Rich content formats
like Microsoft® Word, Adobe PDF, and AutoCAD DWG/DWF enrich usability through
features like text search, layering and anti-aliased zooming. These
complex formats represent lines, circles and text using complex entity data structures
with x,y coordinates, fonts, thickness, color, line pattern styles and more.
Complex formats are always evolving, adding new features and better ways to represent the
richness of the data presentation. Over time, word processing, CAD and
even page layout formats evolve into almost completely new formats, with little similarity
to their original form, making backwards compatibility difficult, if not impossible.
And, as these formats gain new features, the engineering and testing cycles become more strained,
allowing less time for issues found on the older format versions. And since source code is generally
rewritten every 3 to 7 years, the likelihood of dragging brittle code for back format support
becomes less and less likely with each cycle.
TIFF is an open, well documented standard with basic
image representation that is read and created by many vendors. It changes little over time,
making it well-suited as an archival format over the long haul. It may in fact be the only
suitable electronic file format choice.