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Open format

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Title: Open format  
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Subject: Digital Negative, Office Open XML, RoadXML, 7z, Infobox file format
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Open format

An open proprietary and free and open source software, using the typical software licenses used by each. In contrast to open formats, closed formats are considered trade secrets. Open formats are also called free file formats if they are not encumbered by any copyrights, patents, trademarks or other restrictions (for example, if they are in the public domain) so that anyone may use them at no monetary cost for any desired purpose.[1]


  • Specific definitions 1
    • Sun Microsystems 1.1
    • US government 1.2
    • State of Minnesota 1.3
    • Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1.4
    • The Linux Information Project 1.5
  • Examples of open formats 2
    • Multimedia 2.1
      • Imaging 2.1.1
      • Audio 2.1.2
      • Video 2.1.3
      • Various 2.1.4
    • Text 2.2
    • Archiving and compression 2.3
    • Other 2.4
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

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

US government

Within the framework of Open Government Initiative, the federal government of the United States adopted the Open Government Directive, according to which: "An open format is one that is platform independent, machine readable, and made available to the public without restrictions that would impede the re-use of that information".[3]

State of Minnesota

The State of Minnesota defines the criteria for open, XML-based file formats as follows:[4]

  • 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."[5]

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 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"[1] – as opposed to a free format which is not encumbered by any copyrights, patents, trademarks or other restrictions.

Examples of open formats

In alphabetical order:



  • APNG — It allows for animated PNG files that work similarly to animated GIF files.
  • GBR - an 2D binary vector image file format, the de-facto standard in the printed circuit board (PCB) industry
  • GIF — CompuServe's Graphics Interchange Format (openly published specification, but patent-encumbered by a 3rd party; became free when patents expired in 2004)
  • JPEG 2000 — an image format standardized by ISO/IEC
  • MNG — moving pictures, based on PNG
  • OpenEXR — a high dynamic range imaging image file format, released as an open standard along with a set of software tools created by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).
  • PNG — a raster image format standardized by ISO/IEC
  • SVG — a vector image format standardized by W3C
  • WebP — image format developed by Google



  • Dirac — a video compression format supporting both lossless and lossy compression
  • Matroska (mkv) — container for all type of multimedia formats (audio, video, images, subtitles)
  • WebM — a video/audio container format
  • Theora — a lossy video compression format.


  • CMML — timed metadata and subtitles
  • SMIL — a media playlisting format and multimedia integration language[7][8]
  • VRML/X3D — realtime 3D data formats standardized by ISO/IEC
  • XSPF — a playlist format for multimedia


  • Plain text — encoded in numerous non-proprietary encodings, such as ASCII
  • HTML — HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main markup language for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser.
  • Unicode Transformation Formats — text encodings with support for all common languages and scripts
  • DVI — device independent (TeX)
  • ePub — open e-book standard by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)
  • FictionBook — open XML-based e-book format, which originated and gained popularity in Russia
  • LaTeX — document markup language
  • Office Open XML — a formatted text format (ISO/IEC 29500:2008);[9] see Licensing for details
  • OpenDocument — a formatted text format (ISO/IEC 26300:2006).[10]
  • OpenXPS — open standard for a page description language and a fixed-document format
  • Various subsets of PDF are open standard for documents exchange (ISO 15930-1:2001, ISO 19005-1:2005). PDF started out a proprietary standard, but was later submitted through standardization (ISO 32000-1[11]). However, there are still some technologies indispensable for the application of ISO 32000-1 that are defined only by Adobe and remain proprietary (e.g. Adobe XML Forms Architecture, Adobe JavaScript).[12][13]
  • PostScript — a page description language and programming language. PostScript started out as a proprietary standard, but was later submitted through standardization
  • XHTML — XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) is a family of XML markup languages that mirror or extend versions of the widely used Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language in which web pages are written.
  • ZIM — an open file format that stores wiki content for offline usage.[14]

Archiving and compression

  • 7z — for archiving and/or compression
  • B1 — for archiving and/or compression
  • bzip2 — for compression
  • gzip — for compression
  • lzip — for compression
  • MAFF — for web page archiving, based on ZIP
  • PAQ — for compression
  • SQX — for archiving and/or compression
  • tar — for archiving
  • xz — for compression
  • ZIP — for archiving and/or compression; the base format is in the public domain, but newer versions have some patented features[15][16][17]


  • CSS — style sheet format usually used with (X)HTML, standardized by W3C
  • CSV — comma separated values, commonly used for spreadsheets or simple databases
  • 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
  • GPX — GPs eXchange format — for describing waypoints, tracks and routes
  • Hierarchical Data Format — multi-platform data format for storing multidimensional arrays, among other data structures
  • HTML/XHTMLmarkup language for web pages (ISO/IEC 15445:2000)
  • iCalendar — calendar data format
  • IFC — data model describing building and construction industry data
  • JSON — object notation, subset of YAML and correct ECMAScript statement
  • LTFS — Linear Tape File System
  • NetCDF — for scientific data
  • NZB — for multipart binary files on Usenet
  • RSS — syndication
  • SDXF — the Structured Data eXchange Format
  • SFV — checksum format
  • LUKS — disk-encryption specification originally intended for Linux
  • TrueCrypt — discontinued container for encrypted data
  • WebDAV — Internet filesystem format
  • XML — a general-purpose markup language, standardized by W3C[18]
  • YAML — human readable data serialization format

See also


  1. ^ a b "Free File Format Definition". Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  2. ^ Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0 – OASIS Standard, 1 May 2005
  3. ^ Open Government Directive of 8 December 2009.
  4. ^ Meanwhile, Deep Down in Texas: An Open Format Bill is Filed – Tuesday, 6 February 2007 @ 03:55 PM PST Contributed by: Andy Updegrove –
  5. ^ Major Revision of Massachusetts Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM). Robin Cover, Editor – Created: 3 July 2007. – Cover Pages
  6. ^ "Opus Interactive Audio Codec". Retrieved 2013-10-01. 
  7. ^ W3C SMIL
  8. ^ SMIL 2.1 (W3C Recommendation)
  9. ^ ISO – News – Publication of ISO/IEC 29500:2008, Information technology — Document description and processing languages – Office Open XML file formats
  10. ^ "ISO/IEC 26300:2006 Information technology -- Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0".  
  11. ^ "ISO 32000-1:2008 – Document management — Portable document format — Part 1: PDF 1.7". 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2010-02-21. 
  12. ^ Duff Johnson (2010-06-10), Is PDF an open standard? - Adobe Reader is the de facto Standard, not PDF, retrieved 2014-01-19 
  13. ^ Leonard Rosenthol, Adobe Systems (2012). "PDF and Standards" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-10-20. 
  14. ^ "openZIM project wiki". 
  15. ^ ".ZIP Application Note". Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  16. ^ "Latest OOX-ODF FUD-Spat: States Prepare to Ban Zip and PDF Files". Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  17. ^ "PKZip Must Open Up". Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  18. ^ W3C XML

External links

  • OpenFormats
  • Practical Advice for using Free Formats from Ubuntu Community Documentation
  • Study on the: Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU, 2006 EU report in favor of adopting open source software
  • Free File Format Definition
  • Definition of Free Cultural Works
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