I find myself scanning a lot of documents onto my computer on a regular basis, using my trusty multi-function laser printer.
A lot of these documents I upload to a cloud-based file storage service so that I can quickly and easily view them later from any device such as my PC, my MacBook Pro or my iPhone when I’m not near a computer.
When scanning in documents, a lot of people ask me which is a better format to save the scans in – TIFF or PDF? The answer is “it depends”, or to give you a longer answer; it depends on what you are going to do with the scans afterwards.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages to both file formats, so that you can make an informed decision as to what you should be using.
TIFF Format Files
TIFF (or Tagged Image File Format) files were introduced back in 1986 by desktop publishing software company Aldus.
Traditionally, they have been the default format for scanned images, and today are popular with both amateur and professional photographers, as well as other people involved with the publishing industry such as graphic designers and graphic artists.
It is a file format that is widely supported by image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro and GIMP. TIFF files can be easily read by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to extract text from scanned images, in order to save as a document for use with applications like Microsoft Word.
The great thing about this image format is that you do not lose any quality in the image like you would with JPEG format images for example.
TIFF images are also multi-page, so if you scan multiple pages they can be saved to a single file. This is also great news for people that use computers to receive faxes, as those faxes can be saved as a single file.
PDF Format Files
PDF (or Portable Document Format) files were introduced in 1993 by Adobe, a company who also bought Aldus (the firm behind the TIFF format files).
Initially released as a proprietary format, it was only until 2008 when it was re-released as an open format, giving software developers more scope to be able to utilise the file format for their applications.
PDF format files, like TIFF format files, are a universal file format and can be opened on any device regardless of operating system. Even smartphones and tablet devices can open such file formats with ease, making them a popular choice as a means of sending documents electronically to other people.
They can contain selectable text as well as images, whereas TIFF files are simply just image format files. If one scans in a document containing both text and images and it is saved as an image-only PDF file, OCR software can be used to extract the text from the scan.
What’s best for me?
Both formats can be parsed with OCR software to extract text from images, however PDF files are a more popular format as far as sending documents to others goes.
If you have a TIFF file but the person you want to send it to doesn’t have an image editor, you can use some TIFF to PDF conversion software on the file so that the recipient will receive a PDF instead.
So in short:
TIFF is good if being used by people with image editors;
PDF is universal for both text and image formats.