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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An open file format is a published specification for storing digital data, usually maintained by a standards organization, which basically can be used and implemented by anyone. For example, an open format can be implementable by both proprietary and free and open source software, using the typical licenses used by each. In contrast to open formats, proprietary formats are controlled and defined by private interests. Open formats are also called free file formats, if they are not encumbered by any copyrights, patents, trademarks or other restrictions (i.e. is in the public domain) so that anyone may use it at no monetary cost for any desired purpose.[1]


Specific definitions


Sun Microsystems

Sun Microsystems defines the criteria for open formats as follows:[2]

  • The format is based on an underlying open standard
  • The format is developed through a publicly visible, community driven process
  • The format is affirmed and maintained by a vendor-independent standards organization
  • The format is fully documented and publicly available
  • The format does not contain proprietary extensions

State of Minnesota

The State of Minnesota defines the criteria for open, XML-based file formats as follows:[3]

  • The format is interoperable among diverse internal and external platforms and applications
  • The format is fully published and available royalty-free
  • The format is implemented by multiple vendors
  • The format is controlled by an open industry organization with a well-defined inclusive process for evolution of the standard

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts "defines open formats as specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, affirmed and maintained by a standards body and are fully documented and publicly available."[4]

The Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM) classifies four formats as "Open Formats":

  1. OASIS Open Document Format For Office Applications (OpenDocument) v. 1.1
  2. Ecma-376 Office Open XML Formats (Open XML)
  3. Hypertext Document Format v. 4.01
  4. Plain Text Format

The Linux Information Project

According to the The Linux Information Project, the term open format should refer to "any format that is published for anyone to read and study but which may or may not be encumbered by patents, copyrights or other restrictions on use".[5] - as opposed to a free format which is not encumbered by any copyrights, patents, trademarks or other restrictions

Examples of open formats


  • CMML — Timed metadata and subtitles
  • DAISY Digital Talking Book — A talking book format
  • FLAC — Lossless audio codec
  • JPEG 2000 – an image format standardized by ISO/IEC
  • Matroska (mkv), container for all type of multimedia formats (audio, video, images, subtitles)
  • MNG — moving pictures, based on PNG
  • Musepack — An audio codec
  • Ogg, container for Vorbis, FLAC, Speex (audio formats) & Theora (a video format)
  • SMIL — A media playlisting format and multimedia integration language[6][7]
  • Speex — Speech codec
  • WavPack — An audio codec
  • XSPF — A playlist format for multimedia
  • PNG – a raster image format standardized by ISO/IEC
  • SVG – a vector image format standardized by W3C
  • VRML/X3D – realtime 3D data formats standardized by ISO/IEC


  • ASCII — a plain text file
  • DVI — device independent (TeX)
  • LaTeX — document markup language
  • Office Open XML — a formatted text format (ISO/IEC 29500:2008)[8]
  • OpenDocument v1.0 — a formatted text format (ISO/IEC 26300:2006).[9]
  • PDF — open standard for documents exchange (ISO 15930-1:2001, ISO 19005-1:2005, ISO 32000-1:2008). PDF started out a proprietary standard, but was later submitted through standardization
  • PostScript — a page description language and programming language. PostScript started out as a proprietary standard, but was later submitted through standardization
  • Rich Text Format — a formatted text format (proprietary[10][11], published specification, defined and maintained only by Microsoft)
  • Unicode
  • UTF-8 — text encoding with support for all common languages and scripts

Archiving and compression

  • 7z — for both archiving and compression
  • bzip2 — for compression
  • gzip — for compression
  • PAQ — for compression
  • SQX — for both archiving and compression
  • tar — for archiving
  • ZIP — for both archiving and compression


  • CSV — comma separated values, commonly used for spreadsheets or simple databases
  • YAML — human readable data serialization format
  • json — object notation, subset of ECMAScript
  • XML — a general-purpose markup language, standardized by W3C [12]
  • HTML/XHTMLmarkup language for web pages (ISO/IEC 15445:2000)
  • RSS — syndication
  • CSS — style sheet format usually used with (X)HTML, standardized by W3C
  • DjVu — file format for scanned images or documents
  • EAS3 — binary file format for floating point data
  • ELF — Executable and Linkable Format
  • FreeOTFE — container for encrypted data
  • Hierarchical Data Format — Multi-platform data format for storing multidimensional arrays, among other data structures
  • iCalendar — calendar data format
  • NZB — for multipart binary files on Usenet
  • NetCDF — for scientific data
  • SDXF — the Structured Data eXchange Format
  • SFV — checksum format
  • TrueCrypt — container for encrypted data
  • WebDav — internet filesystem format

See also


External links


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