TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) History and Advantages - ByteScout
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TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) History and Advantages

The was an article TIFF vs PDF some time ago. This one is more detailed about TIFF.

TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format. TIFF is one of the most widely used image formats.TIFF is particularly popular in the image editing industry, graphic design artists, professional and novice photographers owing to the ability to be easily edited. TIFF is a raster or bit map image format and the TIFF files end with extensions .tiff or .tif.

  1. TIFF Format History
  2. TIFF format specifications?
  3. What Libraries support TIFF?
  4. Advantages of TIFF Images
  5. Disadvantages of TIFF Images

TIFF Format History

In the early 1980s, vendors of the desktop scanners had their own scanning format and there was no standard format for scanning images. Keeping in view this requirement, efforts were made to develop a common scanning format for desktop scanners. It was due to this reason TIFF image format was developed in the mid of 1980s.

At that time desktop scanner used to scan documents in binary format. The scanned pixel could have only 0 or 1 as their values; hence the initial TIFF was in the binary form. With the passage of time, technology evolved and scanners became more sophisticated and powerful and started to accommodate greyscale images as well. Finally, color images were also stored in the TIFF format. Today TIFF is capable of storing high depth color images of several types. No major update to the TIFF file format has been released after 1992.

Initially, a company named Aldus created TIFF file formats and owned all its copyright. In the year 2009, Aldus was acquired by Acrobat systems and currently, it holds all the rights and ownership of TIFF format.

TIFF Image Advantages and History

TIFF format specifications?

TIFF uses 32bit offsets to replicate color configurations of images. That means that file size has a limit of 4 gigabytes (4 GB). Many implementations use signed integers to support files of up to 2 gigabytes.TIFF files have the .tif extension.

Due to its wide usage and multiple advantages- especially in color images- TIFF is supported by most major imaging software, page layout apps, and word processors.

The TIFF specification has had no major update since revision 6.0 in 1992. In 1995, Adobe made a minor change to the specification by adding a “draft” supplement. Another addition was in 2002 when Adobe incorporated JPEG-in-TIFF, a supplement to the TIFF specification worked on in 1994. Adobe could be working on a new TIFF specification but as it stands, there is no indication of that being a priority.

TIFF files have image file headers, file directory, and bitmap data. In terms of who else uses TIFF, find its wide application in desktop publishing, 3D applications, and medical imaging.

What Libraries support TIFF?

LibTiff is a free and open-source software tool designed for TIFF. With LibTiff you can read and write TIFF files and work with TIFF and LibTiff mailing lists. You can also access tools at Little cms, a color management engine that links to LibTiff. The color management engine is essential when applying profile chain files and can be useful when converting color schemes, say from true color (RGB TIFF) to the subtractive color model (CMYK TIFF). There is also Python Imaging Library, a TIFF library implementation.

Baseline TIFF Images

There are four baseline TIFF images readers can work with: we have bi-level (black and white), palette (indexed), grayscale, and RGB. RGB images hold a capacity to store 16.7 million colors while palette images only store 256 colors as is gray-scale. The TIFF Extension TIFF 6.0 specification also supports CMYK images.

Advantages of TIFF Images

The following are some of the reasons why TIFF images should be used for storing images.

  • Compression

TIFF is a lossless compression format which means that it does not lose its quality if the image if dot per pixel value is modified. This capability of TIFF images makes them portable to almost every hardware and software.
TIFF files can be easily edited and modified. It is due to this reason that this image type is very famous amongst the publishing industry and professional photographers who need to edit their images oftentimes.

  • Flexibility

You can compress TIFF image files using any type of file compression tool available to you. This advantage means that you can compress and archive multiple images in just one TIFF file. Apart from its flexibility, TIFF boasts more features that make it one of the best image file formats out there.

TIFF is platform/hardware-independent and one can resize, transfer and edit TIFF images using most image editing applications. Ease of editing TIFF images has made it a preferred file format for archiving of digital photographs.

Disadvantages of TIFF Images

  • Raster Image Format

TIFF is a raster image file format which means that it is made up of small bits which may distort the image quality if resized.
The security level of this format is not very sophisticated. Users can set the security for the whole file but cannot set security for individual file components.
TIFF image format is not able to embed or attach other file types with it unlike other format types such as PDF.

  • Not suitable for Printing Purposes

As said earlier, image resize might distort the image quality which results in poor print quality hence these images are not suitable in the printing industry.

  • Consumes a lot of storage space

Even when compressed, TIFF image files are still too large compared to equivalent images in JPEG. Not only does that mean more storage space but also that Web browsers and other applications take too much time trying to open TIFF files. Most often, users opt to convert TIFF files into a different less bulky file format.

  • Security
  • Cannot Attach other file types


TIFF file format should be used in the scenarios where we need to edit our image and keep the image size small. In cases where we need high-quality images with sophisticated security and embedding features, we should prefer the latest file format types such as PDF. (read TIFF vs PDF )