An important component of scientific work is being able to take your data with you as you move from one position to another, and being able to work with the data files on the computer systems at your new institute. Similarly, it's vital to be able to exchange data files with colleagues or just read your own files in multiple different packages.

Therefore it is important to have standards-based data formats that are openly and well documented so that anyone can implement a reader and writer for the format. Please use this page to list:


Hierarchical Data format is an extremely flexible format, possibly too flexible for its own good


Network Common Data Format is a set of software libraries and machine-independent data formats that support the creation, access, and sharing of array-oriented scientific data. The netCDF4 API also supports HDF5 data formats, which will probably take over.


Flexible Image Transport System was developed for astronomy, but could be used by many disciplines. One notable feature is good support for World Coordinates, i.e. translation between pixel coordinates and physical coordinates such as Longitude & Latitude, Frequency, Stokes parameters (polarisation). Arbitrary numbers of dimensions are supported as well, but not so flexibly as in hdf5.

Meteorological formats


CREX The FM 95 -XII CREX is standard WMO Character form for the Representation and EXchange of meteorogical and other data. It is self defining, table driven and very flexible data representation system. It is specially useful in the cases where binary representation of data is not possible due to the lack of computer handling capabilities.

GRIB "Gridded Binary" format for binary data, used by many forecast applications.

ODB "Observation database" format used by some Meteo France and others for the ALADIN forecasting system.

FA / LFI files




XML variants


Open Spec?

Debian Packages










BioMedCentral format

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Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine is a classical format for medical computing imaging.

Chemical MIME/file types

Chemical MIME types can be introduced to the Linux desktop with chemical-mime-data. You will find most information about these MIME types and the project in the source of the package.

All chemical applications (e.g. xdrawchem or openbabel), which can handle the MIME specs benefit from this package. Older specs for e.g. GNOME <= 2.4 or KDE <= 3.x are a bit harder to support, because their magic databases are not expandable.

The MIME-types are not part of the official shared-mime-info package/projects, because these MIME-types have never been registered with IANA (see also


BioDAS is a Distributed Annotation System for genome work - more a protocol than a data format. It uses XML for the sequence data.