What Are TIF and TIFF Files?

How to open and convert a tagged image file (TIF)

A file with the TIF or TIFF file extension is a tagged image file. This type of file is used for high-quality raster type graphics. The format supports lossless compression, in which no image data is lost during the compression process. This lets graphic artists and photographers archive their high-quality photos in a manageable amount of storage space without compromising quality.

TIF Files on Windows 10

TIFF and TIF can be used interchangeably. TIFF is an acronym for tagged image file format.

GeoTIFF image files also use the TIF file extension. These are image files that store GPS coordinates as metadata with the file, using the extensible features of the TIFF format.

Some scanning, faxing, and optical character recognition (OCR) applications also utilize TIF files.

Opening TIF File

Screenshot of a TIF file open in Windows Photo Viewer
Tim Fisher

Windows Photo Viewer or Photos apps, which is included with the different version of Windows, can be used to view a TIF file. These apps don't provide a means for editing those files, however. On a Mac, the Preview app can open TIF files.

Third-party apps are also available for viewing and editing TIF files, especially in the case of multi-page TIF files. Popular apps include ​GraphicConverter, ACDSee, ColorStrokes, and XnView.

Editing TIF Files

One option for editing a TIF file is to use one of the conversion tools below. These don't require installing a full-fledged photo editing program that specifically supports the TIF format, but it does change the format of the file from TIF.

If you want to keep the TIF format and edit it, you can use the free photo editing program GIMP. Some other popular photo and graphics tools can work with TIF files, such as Adobe Photoshop, but these are often not available for free.

If you're working with a GeoTIFF image file, you can open the TIF file with a program like Geosoft Oasis montaj, ESRI ArcGIS Desktop, or GDAL.

How to Convert a TIF File

If you have an image editor or viewer on your computer that supports TIF files, you can open the file in that program, and then save the TIF file as a different image format, such as JPG. This can usually be accomplished through the program's File menu, like File > Save as, and selecting a different image format.

Screenshot showing how to convert TIF to JPG using Photoshop
 Tim Fisher

There are online file converters, as well as free image converter programs you can use. In some cases, free online document converters can also handle TIF file conversions, too.

For example, CoolUtils.com and Zamzar are two free online TIF converters that can save TIF files as JPG, GIF, PNG, ICO, TGA, and even PDF file formats. GeoTIFF image files can generally be converted in the same way as a regular TIF/TIFF file.

If converting a GeoTIFF image file, the GPS metadata may be lost in the process.

More Information on the TIF/TIFF Format

The TIFF format was developed by a company called Aldus Corporation for desktop publishing purposes. Version 1 of the standard was released in 1986. TIFF became an international standard format in 1993. Adobe now owns the copyright to the TIF format.