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What Are the Advantages of AVI Format?

J. Robert Brown
J. Robert Brown

The biggest advantages of audio video interleave (AVI) formatting are usually its universality and general ease of use. This sort of format, which is used primarily for audio and video content storage, can normally be read by a wide variety of devices, and can be played by most computers and operating systems around the world. It doesn’t require conversion and doesn’t need any specific programs or drivers to open and become useful on nearly any machine, so long as the machine is generally able to read digital media files to start with. When the technology was first introduced, in the mid-1990s, there weren’t many drawbacks at all. The advantages of the format have largely held the test of time, though modern advancements in video software and digital media generally have exposed some limitations to the AVI platform. It isn’t always compatible with video compression, for instance, and can’t always store larger music files, particularly MP3s, reliably. Depending on the context, though, it can still be a compelling choice.

Understanding the Format Generally

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Man holding computer

Audio video interleave is a means of digitally storing audio and video media content in a file for playback. It’s been a built-in feature of the Windows® computer operating system (OS) since approximately 1992, and was hailed as a more or less universal platform for reading, playing, and converting digital media files at that time. AVI-formatted files employ the file extension .avi, and are typically made up of a header tag followed by a series of chunks of information.

The header portion of the AVI-formatted file provides details about the file contents, such as width, height, and frame rate, while the chunks of information store the actual audio and video data. A key advantage, and perhaps the most significant advantage in most settings, is this format’s ability to be played on the majority of computers worldwide.

Program Selection and Ease of Use

In order to play a media file of any format, AVI included, a computer, tablet, or phone needs to have a compatible software program that understands the details of the file contents. When the appropriate software program is not available to open and play a media file, the user is usually presented with a message dialog stating that the file can’t be opened as presented. Options are then provided to enable the user to either select the program from a list of available software or use the Internet to locate a suitable host program.

Universality in a Changing Space

The AVI format normally typically eliminates the need for program selection since its .avi extension is generally considered universal. Almost all operating systems can open it without requiring some other software, and without having to piggyback onto another program.

Format Limitations

During the years since the inception of the AVI format, many video techniques have been introduced that could not have been anticipated in the 1990s. Such is so often the way of technology, and though the AVI format has largely persisted, it does have some drawbacks when held up against the modern landscape. For instance, the compression schemes used to optimize space requirements when writing AVI files are not usually as efficient as techniques employed in more recently developed media formats. As such, the AVI format requires approximately 5 megabytes (MB) of storage space for each hour of video and does not support the ability to specify media details, such as aspect ratio, time codes, or audio sample rates below 32 kilohertz (KHz). Most modern video formats have these capabilities, and normally take up less space, too, thanks to compression.

Many newer media file formats are making their way around the Internet, including Ogg, MOV, and NUT. Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG), however, is emerging as a default standard and is ever-increasing in popularity. Software programs to support the creation and playback of MPEG media files are included in both Windows® and Mac® operating systems.

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Discussion Comments


@literally45- Another advantage of AVI video format is that if you have a multi-format DVD player, you can burn AVI videos onto CDs (instead of DVDs) and play them in your DVD player. I've done this for a few home videos and the results were very good. The picture quality was the same as DVD quality and it cost me less.


@SarahGen--You need an AVI format codec. You can download it for free from various online sources. You could also use an AVI format converter to convert the file to a different format.

I recommend getting a codec pack. There are some great ones out there that have all of the codecs you will ever need, including AVI. That way, you won't have to download a new codec for each file format.

I like the AVI format for media files, especially videos. The quality is good and the files tend to be smaller than some other video formats. I also like the fact that I can download and load subtitle files to AVI format videos. It makes things so much easier. I'm not very technology or computer savvy, but this is my opinion of AVI format media.


I have a media file in AVI format but my computer won't play it. What can I do about this?

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