Open vs. Closed Formats

This is a work in progress! Please let me know if you notice any important formats I'm missing.

I especially would love to hear about more GIS formats, and information on calendaring formats.

Instead of (closed) Consider using (open)
Name File ext Owned by Name File ext
Text documents
MS Word .doc Microsoft Open document format .odf
HTML .html, .htm
Plain text .txt
Postscript or PDF1 .pdf, .ps
Excel .xls, .xlw Microsoft Open document spreadsheet .ods
Comma-separated .csv
Photoshop .psd Adobe JPEG, PNG .jpg, .png
GIMP XCF2 .xcf
Bitmap, Microsoft Office Document Imaging .bmp, .mdi Microsoft GIF3 .gif
Windows Media Audio,
Ogg Vorbis .ogg
Mpeg34 .mp3
Windows Media Lossless .wma Microsoft FLAC, WAV (lossless) .flac, .wav
Windows Media Video .wmv Microsoft MPEG1, MPEG4, .mpeg, .mp4, .mpeg4
Quicktime Sorenson 3 .mov, .qt Apple/Sorenson DivX, Ogg Theora, Dirac .divx, .ogv
PDF .pdf
HTML .html, .htm
Open Document Presentation .odp
Geographic information / GIS
MrSID .sid LizardTech GeoTIFF .tiff
Computer-Aided Drawing (CAD)
Solidworks, ProE, DWG .stp, .prt, .prc, .dwg Solidworks, PTC, Autodesk, etc. IGES, DXF5 .iges, .dxf
LEGO Digital Designer, LEGO Track Designer .lxf, .lxfml, .tdr LEGO Group LDRAW .ldr, .mpd, .dat


1. PDF is owned by Adobe but is open (public specification, no patent issues).

2. GIMP's XCF format is open and there is a public spec, but few other applications currently support it well. In the past the developers discouraged its use by other applications but that's no longer the case. Of course, it's the format of choice for GIMP projects.

3. GIF used to have patent problems, but the patents have now expired.

4. MP3 isn't open -- patent issues make it a legal risk -- but it's very well supported by a variety of software and devices.

5. DXF is owned by AutoDesk but is an open specification for file exchange. DWG, on the other hand, is still under litigation.

(This page is formatted in HTML -- an open format -- and is available at: