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What are the differences of the graphic formats, e.g., GIF, JPG, BMP?

GIF – Graphics Interchange Format
GIF pictures store single or multiple raster image data in 8-bit, or 256 colors. GIF pictures support transparency, compression, interlacing, and multiple-image pictures (animated GIFs).

•Widely supported Internet standard
•Lossless compression and transparency supported
•Animated GIFs are prevalent and easy to create with a large number of GIF animation programs

•256-color palette; detailed pictures and photo-realistic images lose color information and look paletted
•Lossless compression is inferior to the JPG or PNG formats in most cases
•Limited transparency; no semi-transparent or faded effects like those provided by alpha channel transparency

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What is the difference between an interlaced or progressively rendered image and a normal one?

Interlaced or progressively rendered images differ from normal images in how they are displayed. Normal or baseline images are typically rendered from left to right and top to bottom, meaning that you cannot make the entire image out until it finishes loading on the page. By contrast, progressively rendered images allow you to get an idea of the entire image before it has completely loaded. Often, when an image is first displayed, it looks out of focus, but as it continues to load, it will become progressively clearer. This is especially advantageous when viewing images over a slow Internet connection.

Three formats are typically used to display progressively rendered images:

Interlaced GIF

Progressively rendered GIF files, called interlaced GIFs, use a protocol that is simpler and somewhat more crude than that of PNG or JPEG files, but are almost universally viewable by applications capable of displaying GIF images. An interlaced GIF doesn’t display its scanline linearly from top to bottom, but instead reorders it so the content of the GIF becomes clear even before it finishes loading. For example, the GIF viewer may display lines at the top of the image, then in the middle, then at the end, and will continue to fill in the blanks until the image is completely loaded. Many web browsers will use the lines that have been loaded to fill in the empty lines, making it appear as though the image is coming into focus. Interlaced GIFs are often larger than normal GIFs, though the difference is usually slight.

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Visual Design – Interlaced Images

We talked previously about content delivery systems as a means to alleviate bandwidth strains on your server, but in smaller environments, a CDN may not be necessary. However, you should still be concerned about bandwidth at all times. Any website, no matter how big or small can see increase usages over time as traffic conditions fluctuate. One great way to help with the loading time of a graphic-intensive website is to create it using interlaced images.

Interlaced and non-interlaced images

These images look and function almost the same way as a non-interlaced image with one exception–how it appears to load to your visitor. If you have a large image on your site and someone with a slower Internet connection comes to view that image, a non-interlaced image will simply be blank until the data transfers and then slowly it will appear from top to bottom.

An interlaced image will appear completely, but it will be highly pixelated. As the data transfers, the picture will begin to get clearer and clearer until the full resolution becomes apparent. A perfect example of the different between the two can be seen below:

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GIF vs. PNG vs. TIFF vs. BMP

The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) file format, created by Compuserve in 1987, uses a lossless compression algorithm (LZW) and is limited to a 256-color palette. GIF also supports transparency, and interlacing. One of the issues surrounding the GIF format is that the LZW algorithm was protected in the USA by a patent held by the company Unisys. The Unisys LZW patent expired in the USA on June 20, 2003.

The PNG (Portable Network Graphics) image format was developed in 1995 as the successor to the GIF format. PNG uses a more efficient compression algorithm than GIF, is patent-free and supports true color images. Alpha channels (variable transparency), gamma correction (cross-platform control of image brightness), and two-dimensional interlacing are other important features of this format. While support for PNG images in browsers has been low in the past, they can now be safely used in all modern browsers, including Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer supports binary transparency in PNG files, just like with GIF, but lacks support for alpha channels.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is the most widely supported graphics file format for printing. Although TIFF is not suitable for viewing in Web browsers, it has other strengths: it is a highly flexible format which is supported by numerous image processing applications. TIFF was designed to be independent of the hardware platform and the operating system on which it executes.

The BMP format (Windows Bitmap) is compatible with most Windows programs, including older programs, but is not recommended for Web browsers, because BMP cannot compress images. BMPs are sometimes preferred for images in computer software when speed is more important than reduced file size, because uncompressed bitmaps can be displayed more quickly.

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BMP, TIFF, GIF, JPEG – Bitmap Standards

The Bitmap Standards – BMP, TIFF, GIF and JPEG

Tom Arah looks at the four main bitmap file standards – BMP, TIFF, GIF and JPEG.

Converting to GIG

When you come to save a bitmap file the sheer number of file types on offer is daunting. What exactly is the difference between a PNG, PCD, PSD and PDF and does it matter? In fact the question is largely irrelevant, at least as you work on your image, as you should always save to your editor’s native format to ensure that you aren’t throwing away information. However images are different from most other files, such as spreadsheets and databases, in that the data they contain usually can’t remain specific to one application – after all an image only makes sense when it is seen by others. This is where the various bitmap file standards come into play enabling the reliable exchange of graphical information between different applications and different media. But don’t panic – your Save As dialog might bombard you with twenty or thirty alternatives, but you really only need to know about four.

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