The Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) was developed by the Aldus Corporation in collaboration with various other contributors in 1986. It is a bitmapped image format that supports various resolutions. A TIFF file contains descriptive information about the image and is identified by a .tiff or a .tif file extension.
TIFF file formats are used for storing very large, high quality images. It is the favored format in many graphic applications, including image manipulation programs, desktop publishing, and 3-D imaging applications, as well as in optical recognition software and scanning and faxing applications. A version called GeoTIFF is used to store geo-referenced raster imagery.
Images that are saved in the TIFF format can have a maximum size of 4 GB. This file size limitation is one of the drawbacks of TIFF, but to get around it and to exceed the size boundary, the creation of a new, related file format has been proposed.
The TIFF format specifies a number of tags to store information about the image, and user applications can define their own tags to describe images. The specification is readily extensible, but writing customized tags for specific applications may make file sharing difficult between different applications. It is best to use extensions that are independent of specific applications and can be readily accepted by a variety of programs.
TIFF images come in many types, including four baseline ones: the black and white bilevel image, the grayscale image, the palette or indexed image, and the RGB image. While the color scope of palette images and gray scale images is limited to 8 bits or 256 colors, the number of colors that RGB images can display run to 24 bits or 16.7 million colors and even the billion strong 48 bits. TIFF can also support images in YcbCr and CMYK formats.
As TIFF files are very large, they often need to be compressed to smaller sizes for the sake of portability. Compression does not affect the image quality. For web use, the files are usually converted to JPEG (or JPG) and BMP formats. These formats are faster to load, and they are also more easily read by web browsers.