Digital File Formats: The Always-Up-To-Date Conversion Guide 12 Jan 2024

Digital File Formats

Document scanning may seem like a tedious task. Consider how freeing it may be to have access to years’ worth of papers at the push of a mouse. Consider the potential of not having to depend on hunting for documents in dark, dreary storage rooms. You’ll be amazed at how enthusiastic you are about your next document digitalization project!

However, before you begin a digital conversion process, you should consider the digital file format in which you want to store the scanned information.

Many businesses devote a significant amount of time and energy to debating the timeframes and budgets of a scanning services project.

However, they lack clarity and unanimity on the output format they will need.

For example, do you wish to examine (and even change) material using word processing software like Microsoft Word? The output files must then be in.DOC or.DOCX format. However, if you only want to examine the content and maintain the format as global and neutral, the. PDF format is a preferable alternative.

Similarly, certain image-based files, such as posters, paintings, or maps, may be better stored in formats such as JPG, which is great for photographic-grade pictures. Schematics, circuit diagrams, and technical drawings, on the other hand, need high-resolution scanning and the.TIFF files are ideal for such detailed photos.

Decisions on the output file format are crucial and must be made early in the project planning stage.

These selections will influence your team’s ability to function without file format and program compatibility difficulties.

If you do not have a strategy in place and your team subsequently encounters file format compatibility concerns, operations will be hampered, and you may have to invest more time and effort in file format conversion.

What exactly is a digital file?

A digital file holds data in a series of ‘bytes’ that may be accessed or read by a software application. Binary data from these files is interpreted by software programs as text characters, picture pixels, or audio samples.

A digital file has an extension, such as.DOCX or.PDF, at the end of the filename. The extension denotes the file’s format and determines which apps may access or change it.

Depending on the software programs you use, you will need to save the scanned files in a digital format compatible with the apps. If not, you may need to convert file types before you can see or alter them.

You can control who has access to which digital files. You may also see the file’s properties, such as its size (sometimes known as its weight in KB or GB), creation date, and last modification date. Digital data may be accessed, altered, and copied.

What exactly are digital file formats?

Now that we’ve addressed the topic of ‘what is a digitized file,’ let’s speak about file formats and look at some digital file samples.

Every digital file has a file format, which is indicated by the filename extension. A digital file format is the output file or deliverable you wish to get after your document scanning project in the context of a document digitization project.

It is critical to choose the digitized file format you want to obtain after your scanning project since it affects the project scope, scanning process details (such as whether you need OCR or not), and post-scan processing done to the output files. Image repairs, for example, are performed on file types such as.JPG or.TIFF.

Every output option is accessible for digital files.

You may save the scanned output files in any of the following common digital formats. If your company employs proprietary software that needs a certain file format or must comply to specific compliances that demand a specific file type, be sure to inform your scanning project manager during the planning stage.

Let’s have a look at the file format definitions as well as the properties of several regularly used file types:

  • PDF

PDF (Portable Document Format) is commonly used since it is a universal format that can be viewed with any program or application. The PDF format is intended to incorporate information that is hidden from the reader but includes keywords that describe the content of the file. These keywords allow a document management system to search the file. If your papers include a mix of prepared text and graphics, such as an instruction manual with text and drawings, PDF is the optimal output file. It is also a suitable solution for documents containing information that has to be easily searchable using text or keywords, such as bills and contracts.

  • PDF/A

The PDF/A format is a subset of the PDF format. It is designed primarily for archiving and long-term ‘as-is’ preservation of records. The format was created to prevent external linking and dynamic modifications to the document over time. It guarantees that information remains unchanged over a long period and that documents stored in PDF/A are displayed consistently and predictably in the future.

Similarly, PDF/E is used to store engineering and technical documents, whereas PDF/X is used to store graphics and printed content.

Insurance policy papers, which must be kept in their original form for many decades, are a good illustration of PDF/A use.

  • TIF

TIF (or TIFF) is an abbreviation for “Tagged Image File Format.” This format is designed particularly for raster-based pictures. TIF files may be compressed into lower file sizes without sacrificing picture quality. If you have a large number of records, it is better to keep them in TIF formats, which may be compressed and take up less storage space.

Furthermore, the TIFF format is appropriate for multi-page documents since it allows for the addition and removal of pages, making it consistent with healthcare privacy rules.

It is great for preserving employee HR records, for example, since you may add additional pages to the employee’s TIFF file when the person submits new paperwork.

Many businesses also prefer TIFF over PDF since a TIFF file retains the document’s integrity, while a PDF file may be edited.

However, keep in mind that if you want TIFF files to be searchable, you must additionally save a separate text file with the information (unless you use a Document Management System).

  • JPG

JPG is an image file format that utilizes ‘lossy compression’ to minimize file size. This signifies that the compression reduces picture quality. However, the loss is minor enough that the viewer will not notice it and has no effect on the file’s content.

JPG is appropriate for digital pictures or web-based images when file weight is critical. It is not always the best option for papers with a lot of content. However, it might be useful for storing marketing brochures, corporate logos, and website graphics.

  • Additional file format definitions

DOCX, PPTX, and other Microsoft Office files are appropriate for updating or collaborative editing. They are not, however, suggested for historical or archival documents that should not be altered, and especially not for files holding personal or sensitive information!

  • Types of digital picture formats

If you wish to save the output files in an image format, you must additionally choose the image parameters you require:

  • Bi-tonal or black-and-white

Each pixel in a bi-tonal picture is either black or white. If you want to keep the download size minimal, these black-and-white photographs are a wonderful option. They are suitable for storing vast amounts of photos when the information in the files does not need full-colour reproduction to precisely duplicate the source document. They assist in lowering the cost of digital storage space. Only use bi-tonal photos if your original papers are clear and in excellent physical shape since this will ensure that the scanned images are readable.

  • The grayscale

Grayscale pictures, unlike bi-tonal images, recreate the source material using several shades of grey rather than simply black and white pixels. If you utilize grayscale photos instead of bi-tonal ones, you may replicate handwritten notes or intricate marks like ink stamps or seals with more clarity. However, the output file sizes and weights may be greater. As a result, whether you have enough digital storage space or simply a limited volume of photographs to keep, this format is an excellent alternative.

  • Full color

Color scanning, like a picture, provides a realistic, lifelike depiction of the original document since it keeps all of the original hues. Full-colour photos take up the greatest space of the three varieties listed above. Choose this format only if you want a full-colour reproduction of the original. For example, when scanning student records, utilize full-color. If you wish to keep red correction markings on test sheets, you’ll need a full-colour scan since they won’t be viewed as red in a bi-tonal or grayscale picture, and they may lose their meaning.

Resolution Guide for Digital File Formats

When we talk about high-quality photographs, we commonly hear the terms high-res or high-resolution.

  • ‘High resolution’ merely indicates that a picture has greater detail. The amount of ‘pixels per inch’ (PPI) or ‘dots per inch’ (DPI) in a picture is used to determine resolution.
  • For most scanning jobs, the usual resolution is 300 DPI.
  • However, we have the option of selecting a resolution ranging from 200 DPI to 1200 DPI.
  • The larger the output file, the greater the resolution used for scanning.
  • If you need to reproduce the scanned picture and wish to scan full-colour images or crucial papers featuring photos (such as a passport or ID card), choose a high scanning resolution (600 DPI or above).
  • Most use cases need a resolution of 300 to 600 DPI.
  • Low-resolution photos (200 DPI) are often used on websites or other online channels where quick download speeds are desired and some quality may be sacrificed for a lower size.

Digital file delivery choices

The delivery choices pertain to how you want the output files to be delivered. Do you, for example, want the scanning provider to save the digital data to an external disk or USB? Or should they be sent electronically to your server or network using FTP (File Transfer Protocol)? If you don’t already have one, you may set up a Document Management System and send the digital files to it for cloud storage.

  • USB

USB, or Universal Serial Bus, is a ‘big’ moniker for a little gadget! You may select that you want us to provide the scanned output files via a USB device, which is a straightforward and frequently used method of sharing or transferring digital information. Because it is a little gadget, it may also be delivered to your location by courier. A USB may also be encrypted for data protection if your data is sensitive.

  • FTP

You may also request that your digital files be provided over FTP.

FTP is an abbreviation for File Transfer Protocol. We may upload the files over the internet and provide you with login credentials to view and retrieve them via a secure FTP server utilizing this approach.

  • Cloud computing

Cloud file storage is perfect for collaborating on projects and sharing data from multiple places. It is an excellent option for hybrid workspaces, dispersed teams, and off-site locations. It offers a safe and accessible unified digital repository. It is also one of the least expensive methods of storing digital material, allowing regular and frequent backups.

Many services, such as DropBox and Google Drive, provide basic file-sharing capabilities as well as cloud storage for documents. RDS, on the other hand, provides a considerably superior answer in the form of OpenText AppEnhancer—a document management system that can be hosted in the cloud and enables robust workflow automation for enterprises of any size.

Choosing the best digital file format for your requirements:

As you can see, there are several aspects to consider before choosing the best format to preserve scanned digital information. It will be determined by your industry, the kind of data in your documents, the number of documents you need to scan, and how you want to utilize the output files.

Discuss your company objectives with our document scanning specialists, and they will offer the optimal format and delivery choices for your scanning job.

Should I consult with professionals in digital transformation?

Typically, scanning company documents is the initial step in a digital transformation effort. Even if you don’t currently have a revolutionary project in mind, you can be certain that the stages following document digitization will lead to additional automation, putting you on the road to digitally altering your company processes.

If you have any concerns regarding scanning documents, contact Velan. Thousands of companies rely on us to help them achieve their digital transformation objectives, beginning with the earliest steps toward digitization.

Our digital transformation advisors are available via phone.

Contact Velan and we’ll gladly schedule a consultation.

Jack Manu

Outsourcing Consultant

About the Author:

Jack Manu, an outsourcing consultant at Velan, has more than a decade of experience in assisting real estate companies and real estate agents to improve the operational efficiency. He has been helping real estate agents including many REMAX agents to focus on their core business by offering transaction & listing coordinator services, accounting service and social media marketing assistance.Jack can be reached at


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