What Is a PCX File?

How to open, edit, and convert PCX files

What to Know

  • A PCX file is a Paintbrush bitmap image file.
  • Open one with GIMP, IrfanView, Photoshop, and similar software.
  • Convert to JPG, BMP, PNG, PDF, and more at Zamzar.com.

This article describes what a PCX file is and how to open or convert one.

What Is a PCX File?

A file with the PCX file extension is a Paintbrush bitmap image file that stands for "Picture Exchange." Multi-page PCX files are saved with the .DCX file extension.

This was one of the first bitmap image formats used in the Windows operating system, but newer formats like PNG have basically replaced it altogether.

PCX files in a Windows 10 folder

How to Open a PCX File

The PCX file is the built-in format used by the MS-DOS program PC Paintbrush from ZSoft, but other software support the format, too, including GIMP, ImageMagick, IrfanView, Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, and XnView.

The default image viewer in Windows might be able to view the file as well.

If you find that an application on your PC does try to open the file, but it's the wrong application or you'd rather have another installed program open it, see our How to Change File Associations in Windows guide for help making that change.

How to Convert a PCX File

One of the easiest ways to convert a PCX file to a newer image format like JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG, PDF, ICO, TGA, TIF, or DPX, is to use a free file converter. Two examples include Zamzar and FileZigZag, both of which are online converters that don't make you download the converter in order to use it.

Other online and downloadable image converters that support PCX files can be found in this list of Free Image Converter Software Programs. Most of the converters you have to download to your computer are beneficial in that you can do batch conversions, like when converting PCX to JPG, so that you can convert lots of images at once.

Another option is to open the file in one of the image viewers or editors above; some of them support conversions.

The command-line tool Ztools Zimaglit is a PCX converter that can be used if you want to send the file directly to a Zebra printer.

Still Can't Open It?

Don't confuse the PXC format with this bitmap image format. PXC files are Photodex cache files that are created by and opened with the now-discontinued Photodex ProShow.

Another file extension that's spelled like this one, and could therefore be confused for it, is PCK. Those are either data files used with the Perfect World video game, or Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager files used with that software.

More Information on PCX Files

PCX files are sometimes called ZSoft Paintbrush files, since they were first used in a paintbrush program created by the company ZSoft.

Structurally, after the 128-byte header information is the image data followed by the optional 256-color palette.

  • The header of a PCX file holds information such as a version number, image dimensions, identifier byte, compression value (which is always set to 1), 16 palette colors, number color planes, and the bit depth of each plane.
  • The image data is stored in rows in a top-down fashion, with red data at the top and then the green and blue data. If there are multiple planes in the PCX file, the same format is used within each plane, with the first plane located at the top.

There's no such thing as an uncompressed PCX file because all of them use the same lossless compression scheme (run-length encoding, or RLE).

  • How do I insert a PCX file into a Word document?

    First, convert the PCX file to a format that Word supports like PNG or JPEG. Then, insert the picture into Microsoft Word.

  • How do I convert a PCX file to an EPS file?

    Use a free file converter like Convertio to convert PCX files to EPS files or vice-versa. Convertio can convert both formats to other image formats as well.

  • What is the WPG image format?

    WPG (WordPerfect Graphic) is a format used in WordPerfect for vector and bitmap images. WPG files can be opened in PaintShop Pro, Inkscape, and the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite. They can also be converted to more user-friendly formats.

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