Archived from http://home.earthlink.net/~ritter/tiff/, which
is sadly no longer available.
The Unofficial TIFF Home Page
Last modified: Feb 14, 1997
Author firstname.lastname@example.org (Niles Ritter)
What is TIFF?
Should I use TIFF ?
Who owns TIFF?
How can I reserve my own tags/compression schemes?
Are there any TIFF mailing lists?
Where can I download the TIFF Specification?
What programs can read Multi-page TIFF?
Is the LZW compression in TIFF patented?
Where can I find Public TIFF Software ?
What TIFF Extensions are Available?
Other TIFF related Pages
TIFF is an acronym for Tag(ged) Image
File Format. It is one of the most popular and
flexible of the current public domain raster file formats. etc.
It depends upon your particular needs.
Limitations: There are no provisions in TIFF for storing
vector graphics, text annotation, etc (although such items could be easily
constructed using TIFF extensions), and so if this is a requirement you would be
better off with a format with broader scope, such as PostScript, CGM, or PICT.
TIFF is based on file-offsets, so that it is not easily "streamable" in the way
JPEG JFIF streams are.
A common complaint of TIFF is rooted in its flexibility. For example the TIFF
format permits both MSB ("Motorola") and LSB ("Intel") byte order data to be
stored, with a header item indicating which order is used. There are old, poorly
written TIFF programs on the PC which rebelled against this and assume that all
TIFF files are Intel byte order. It is very easy to write a TIFF-writer, but
very difficult to write a fully TIFF compliant reader.
TIFF uses 4-byte integer file offsets to store image data, with the
consequence that a TIFF file cannot have more than 4 Gigabytes of raster data
(and some files have begun to approach this boundary). However, this is 4G of
compressed data, and so if the compression ratio is high enough, theoretically a
TIFF image could be much larger (in fact, 2**32-1 pixels square).
Strengths: TIFF is primarily designed for raster
data interchange. It's main strengths are a highly flexible and
platform-independent format which is supported by numerous image processing
applications. Since it was designed by developers of printers, scanners and
monitors, it has a very rich space of information elements for colorimetry
calibration, gamut tables, etc. Such information is also very useful for remote
sensing and multispectral applications.
Another feature of TIFF which is also useful is the ability to decompose an
image by tiles rather than scanlines. This permits much more
efficient access to very large imagery which has been compressed (since one does
not have to decompress an entire scanline).
Theoretically, TIFF can support imagery with multiple bands (up to 64K
bands), arbitrary # bits per pixel, data cubes, and multiple images per file,
including thumbnail subsampled images.
Color spaces supported include
Compression types include
- Pseudocolor (any size)
Pixel formats supported include:
- raw uncompressed,
- Lempel-Ziv-Welch (LZW)
- CCITT Fax 3 & 4
- JPEG (see below)
- 1-64 bit integer, signed or unsigned
- 32 or 64 bit IEEE floating point
TIFF was developed by Aldus and Microsoft Corp, and the specification was owned
by Aldus, which in turn merged with
Systems, Incorporated. Consequently, Adobe Systems now holds the Copyright
for the TIFF specification.
TIFF is a trademark, formerly registered to Aldus, and which is now claimed
(though not yet registered) by Adobe Systems, Inc.
TIFF tag and TIFF compression ID registration is handled by Adobe Developer
Relations. Please send your requests to Adobe developer relations support staff
Adobe needs the following information to assign a TIFF tag or compression code:
Brief description of tag format (optional, see below):
It is their policy not to divulge information about TIFF tag owners or the
format of private tag data without the owner's consent. If you wish to make
public the fact that you are the owner of a tag and/or details about a tag's
layout, you can send them this information and they will store it in their TIFF
Yes, the main TIFF mailing list is maintained at SGI; to subscribe, send email
with the following subject and message body:
(optionally, after "subscribe tiff" you may place an email address). You will
receive a confirmation from the Majordomo listserver running there. To post
messages, send email to email@example.com.
There is also a mailing list for discussing the
GeoTIFF TIFF tag extensions for georeferenced raster data, which can be
accessed by sending email:
subscribe geotiff Your-Name-Here
archive. of the ongoing GeoTIFF list discussion is now available.
The online PDF formatted
TIFF 6.0 Specification is available from Adobe in their
Technical Notes for Developers Section; you will need an
Adobe Acrobat Viewer to read this, also freely available from Adobe.
PostScript version of the spec is available from the SGI TIFF archive, which
also has an
Older Revision Specs are also online (for historians, only!):
Here are some programs that have been used by readers of the TIFF mailing list:
TIFF Libraries and Source Code
Sam Leffler has written a
platform-independent, public-domain subroutine library and tool-set for TIFF
files, called "libtiff".
LIBTIFF.ORG Page for the libtiff package is here.
manual pages for the subroutines and utilities are also now online.
There is a hacked version of Libtiff for Windows-flavored compilers,
allowing the creation of DLL's, and is called
LIBTIFFW. The cognizant programmer is
Soren Pingel Dalsgaard.
TIFF256 Graphics Library is a shareware, licensable TIFF library
supporting TIFF 5.0 (the latest rev is 6.0). Don't know much about it.
WOCAR: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for TIFF
WOCAR is an Optical Characters Recognition Application (OCR). It
converts scanned documents to text documents. The software can process
documents written in English or in French. WOCAR can work with any scanner
that supports the TWAIN interface. It can also process any bilevel TIFF
image file. (multipage TIFF files are supported) This application works on
Windows 95 and Windows NT, and is also availabe at the
Simtelnet FTP site. The author of this package is
Cyril Cambien, who also has his
ImTools converter put out by the San Diego Supercomputer Center claims
to be able to handle "many tiff formats that others can't". Try it out and
let me know.
SimTel TIFF package Software, source code, etc available, primarily for
MS-DOS platforms. It includes the original TIFF library put out by Aldus,
and looks to be rather outdated, and unlikely to support TIFF 6.0 additions,
such as tiling.
Usenet Comp.Graphics FAQ files is an excellent resource for finding TIFF
viewers, converters, etc. Discussions arising in the comp.graphics.*
newsgroups about pros and cons for other formats, the "LZW" patent issues,
etc are also included. In particular the section on
Image Conversion and Display programs is very useful. Most of the
references below are extracted from this reference.
Viewers and Editors
One of the best public-domain TIFF viewers for the mac is also a very nice
image-processing system in its own right, called
NIH Image. It now supports Adobe Photoshop plug-ins as well, and can
display most garden-variety TIFF files, though older versions had problems
with "tiled" TIFF images. And yes, it will handle 16-bit grayscale TIFF, if
need be. It is limited to 8-bit color display, but given a 24-bit RGB it
will allow you to edit the color planes separately, and view "palettized"
version of the color data. Pascal Source code for Metrowerks CW7 or later is
also available for hacking.
ImageMagick can open most TIFF files, and do some annotation, using the
standard X-window interface. It is in the public domain.
XV Viewer by John Bradley is a very nice display program, which has some
nice editing features, and a "Visual Schauzer" which provides a icon/desktop
view of a directory, with thumbnails, etc. Note, however, that the most
recent versions are *NOT* public domain, but must be licensed. The source
code is also available, and it uses the "libtiff" package.
See also the
Unix and X-windows entry of the comp.graphics FAQ archive.
PC/DOS/Windows Flavored Systems
TIFF is a very extensible format, and there are a number of efforts to extend
TIFF for specific applications by registering new tags with Adobe. A number of
such extensions are described below:
GeoTIFF is a newly emerging interchange standard, which permits the
addition of Geographic information such as projections, datums, etc,
associated with remote sensing or cartographic raster data.
Adobe Extensions for PageMaker
Adobe has recently defined a set of
extensions to the TIFF spec, allowing for "clipping-path" definitions,
JPEG - in - TIFF
Another effort involves the encapsulation of a decent lossy JPEG stream
within TIFF; the original 6.0 spec was not worked out correctly. Tom Lane
led the development of the new TIFF implementation called
JPEG-in-TIFF. The current
libtiff package offers some level of JPEG support, when linked with the
IJG JPEG library, available at
ftp.uu.net (if you can ever get in), or at
ftp.cs.wisc.edu. See also Tom Lane's
JPEG Frequently Asked Questions file.
Zip - in - TIFF
The best lossless compression scheme in TIFF currently is LZW (Lempel Ziv
Welch), which, unfortunately, suffers from the same
Unisys patent problems as the popular "GIF" format. For this reason, an
alternative, non-proprietary compression scheme has been proposed, based on
ZLIB/Deflation stream. The current
libtiff package offers some level of Zip support, when linked with the
zlib library, available at the
ftp.uu.net archives, the.
www-dsed.llnl.gov archives, and the
swrinde.nde.swri.edu archive (in Zip format). The current version level
is 1.0.4, as of 21 November, 1996.
On a related note, see also the
PNG (Portable Network Graphics) Web page, for another format using Zip
Caveat: the Zip-TIFF approach has not been adopted widely, as yet.
However, Adobe technical support has expressed the intention to include it
in the next TIFF 7.0 specification (to be released Real Soon Now (TM)).
TIFF Class F Revised Specification
TIFF/IT Prepress Interchange Standard
Raster Graphic Interchange Standards page has a link to information on
TIFF/IT standard for prepress applications.
Note: TIFF/IT = Transport Independent File Format for Image
It is intended that the TIFF/IT standard will reduce the variation
between TIFF implementations which has led to a reputation of valid TIFF
files often being unreadable when transferred between different
The TIFF/IT spec is available from the ANSI standards organization or
NPES, the association of suppliers of printing and publishing technologies.
It is ANSI standard IT8.8-1993 'Tag image format for image technology'
NPES's phone number in the United States is (703) 264-7200.
TIFF enhancements for Adobe PageMaker 6.0
Technical Note includes new TIFF tags for supporting such things as TIFF
directory "Trees" (as opposed to the singly-linked list of IFD's), defining
polygonal "clipping paths" (ala PostScript), indexed ("palette") images for
other color spaces such as CMYK, and a definition of the new ICC L*a*b*
RichTIFF standard was defined by Crosfield , now maintained by
ITPC, and was designed primarily for newsphoto interchange. RichTIFF is not
really a standard format, but rather a guideline on how to format TIFF files
for this purpose.
Wang TIFF Image-Annotation extensions
Wang has developed some
tag extensions for TIFF files, including post-it notes etc. It is very
Wintel specific, but you may find it useful.
Kodak TIFF extensions
Kodak has several file formats in use which are more or less based on the
TIFF spec (though not always complying with the strict rules). The Kodak
Professional Digital Camera System produces a file with TIFF header and
multiple IFD's of various types, and there is also a "KIFF" (Kodak Image
File Format) based on TIFF with proprietary colorspace and compression
methods (the use of which changes their name to "KIC" - Kodak Image
Compression - files. For more information contact
Internet RFC's Related to TIFF
RFC 804 covers the RFC on the CCITT Recommendation T.4 which explains CCITT
Group 3 encoding and the Modified Huffman and Modified Read compression
algorithms. (Group 4 is detailed in CCITT Recommendation T.6).
RFC 1314 concerns suggested standards for using TIFF for document
interchange on the Internet. The standard is compared with the "TIFF Class
F" fax scheme.
Other TIFF Related Pages
TIFF Online Test Images. If you have a TIFF viewer linked to your Web
Browser, you can test it on these images. Sources for TIFF viewers is also
Last modified: Feb 14, 1997
Comments? e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org