What Are TIF and TIFF Files?

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

What to Know

  • A TIF/TIFF file is a tagged image file.
  • View one with XnView or the image program built-in to your OS.
  • Convert one to JPG, PNG, or PDF with an image converter like CoolUtils or Adapter.

This article describes what TIF/TIFF files are and how they're unique when compared to other images, which programs can open one, and how to convert one to a different image format.

What Are TIF and TIFF Files?

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 images 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.

How to Open a TIF File

Windows Photos and Photo Viewer, both included with the different version of Windows, can be used to open a TIF file. These apps don't provide a means for editing them, though.

TIF file open in Windows Photo Viewer

On a Mac, the Preview app can open TIF files.

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

How to Edit TIF Files

One option for editing a TIF file is to use one of the conversion tools below. You'll get an editor and converter in one tool.

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

If you're working with a GeoTIFF image, open the file with a program like 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 it to a different image format, such as JPG. This can usually be accomplished through the program's menu, like File > Save as, and selecting a different file format.

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

There are also free image converter programs you can use, some of which run entirely online so that you don't have to download anything. In some cases, free online document converters can handle TIF file conversions, too.

For example, CoolUtils and Zamzar are two free online TIF converters that can convert the image to JPG, GIF, PNG, ICO, TGA, and even PDF. GeoTIFF images 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.

Still Can't Open It?

It's usually not complicated at all to open an image file format, given that there are so many web and desktop tools that are compatible with lots of graphics formats, especially this one. Therefore, if your file doesn't open even after trying a conversion tool, you most likely don't have an image file.

Lots of files share some of the same file extension letters even though the formats have nothing in common. TFIL, for example, could easily be confused for TIF despite the format (it's an update file used by Blizzard games) being far from related to an image.

FIT is another you might confuse for a TIF file. It's a GIS data file used by Garmin devices, meaning that you can't open one with an image viewer.

More Information on the TIF/TIFF Format

The TIFF format was developed by a company called Aldus Corporation for desktop publishing purposes. Adobe now owns the copyright to the TIF format.

Version 1 of the standard was released in 1986, TIFF became an international standard format in 1993, and 6.0 is the latest version.

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