Software & Apps File Types 170 170 people found this article helpful What Is a PNG File? How to Open, Edit, & Convert PNG Files By Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated March 19, 2020 File Types Design Cryptocurrency MS Office Windows Linux Google Drive Apps File Types Backup & Utilities View More Tweet Share Email A file with the PNG file extension is a Portable Network Graphics file. The format uses lossless compression and is generally considered the replacement to the GIF image format. However, unlike GIF, PNG files do not support animations. The very similar MNG (Multiple-image Network Graphics) format does, however, but has yet to gain the kind of popularity that GIF or PNG files have. PNG files store graphics on websites. Some operating systems like macOS and Ubuntu store screenshots in the PNG format by default. Another use for PNGs is when portions of the image need to be transparent, which can be helpful when making illustrations, designing a website, creating photography, etc. For example, if you have a logo you want placed over a photo, it's much easier to "cut" the logo out, leaving transparent pixels around it, so that when it's placed over the other picture, that picture will show through the transparency. How to Open a PNG File The default photo viewer program in Windows opens PNG files but there are many other ways to view one. All web browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.) automatically view PNG files that you open from the internet, which means you don't have to download every PNG file you want to look at online. You can also use the web browser to open PNG files from your computer, by using the Ctrl+O keyboard combination to browse for the file. Most browsers also support drag-and-drop, so you might be able to just drag the PNG file into the browser to open it. There are also several standalone file openers, graphic tools, and services that open PNG files. A few popular ones include XnView, IrfanView, FastStone Image Viewer, Google Drive, Eye of GNOME, and gThumb. To edit PNG files, the XnView program just mentioned can be used, as well as the Microsoft Windows included graphics program called Paint, the Windows 10 Paint 3D tool, the popular GIMP utility, and the popular Adobe Photoshop. Considering the number of programs that open PNG files, and that you very likely have at least two installed right now, there's a very real chance that the one that's set to open them by default (i.e. when you double-click or double-tap on one) isn't the one you'd like to use. If you find that to be the case, see How to Change File Associations in Windows tutorial for detailed instructions on how to change that "default" PNG program. How to Convert a PNG File Probably every single image file converter that you run across converts a PNG file to another format (like JPG, PDF, ICO, GIF, BMP, TIF, etc.). There are several options in our Free Image Converter Software Programs list, including some online PNG converters like FileZigZag and Zamzar. Visit Pngtosvg.com to convert a PNG to SVG. When to Use PNG Files PNG files are a great format to use but not necessarily in every situation. Sometimes a PNG can be way too large in size and not only use unnecessary disk space or make it harder to email, but can also drastically slow down a web page if you're using one there. Consider if the image quality benefits are enough to sacrifice that space (or slow web page loading, etc.). Because a PNG file doesn't compress the image like other lossy formats like JPEG do, quality doesn't diminish as much when the image is in the PNG format. JPEG files are useful when the image is low contrast, but PNGs are better when dealing with sharp contrast like when there are lines or text in the image, as well as large areas of solid color. Screenshots and illustrations, then, are best in PNG format while "real" photos are best as JPEG/JPG. You might also consider using the PNG format over JPEG when you're dealing with an image that needs to be edited over and over again. For example, since the JPEG format undergoes what's called generation loss, editing and saving the file again and again will result in a lower quality image over time. This isn't true for PNG because it uses lossless compression. More Help With PNG Files To make the background transparent in a PNG, your options include automated tools like Clipping Magic or the free Background Burner tool, or nearly any image editing program. For example, if you have Photoshop, place the image in its own layer, delete the background layer, and then use any tool (e.g., Eraser, Marquee, Lasso) to erase the portions of the image that should be transparent.