Open File Formats

Some file formats are "proprietary" or "non-free", which means the file format is owned by a company. Sometimes the company which owns the file formats asks for licensing fees or impose legal restrictions of the use of these file formats. This means that people who use these file formats are unable to use or distribute these files until they applied for a license or payed a fee.

A free or open format can be used by anyone without legal restrictions or paying licensing fees. In this document we will give you some open-source alternatives for popular known file formats.


Many popular audio file formats such as MP3 are non-free, though there are free formats available and some are even better (in terms and size of quality) compared to proprietary formats! There are three main open audio formats:

* FLAC - lossless

* Ogg Vorbis (.ogg or .oga) - lossy

* Speex - lossy


You probably have heard of them once in your life. DivX, MPEG, etc... That are all patented file formats and shouldn't be used so anyone can play them. Non-encrypted DVDs should play, however MPEG-2 is arguably patented. You can play encrypted DVDs by using libdvdcss and that is legal but the file format still isn't.

There are two good open video formats that are interesting at the moment:

* Ogg Theora (.ogg or .ogv) - lossy

* WebM (.webm) - lossy


You probably know the document formats .doc, .xls and .ppt. These are also proprietary formats owned by Microsoft. There are some document standards like:

* ?OpenDocument (.odt, .ods, .odp, .odg, .odf)

* Rich Text Format (.rtf)

* "Raw" text (.txt)


With images it is a lot easier. Most photos are already shot in JPEG which is a open format. But you still have a choice of course:

* PNG (.png) - bitmap, lossless

* JPEG (.jpg) - bitmap, lossy

* SVG - vector, lossless

slashdot JPG article:

Patent free ?GIFs are possible... so long as you don't use compression (which makes them fairly pointless)

regarding gif:

?JPEG2000 ?

?JPEG2000:["JPEG2000"] []

PNG, however, uses the same algorithm that gzip does. It's an unencumbered format for lossless compression, and the browser support for the basic features is already there! People complain about how the PNG support in old ?IEs and suchforth isn't very good, but they're usually talking about the features of PNG that GIF doesn't have. PNG files tend to be smaller than their GIF counterparts, and they even support alpha channels! (from

possible alternative to jpg: no guarantees though, i've never heard of this before.

oooh JPEG committee are gunna find prior art: