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Research Data Management

Resource for best practices in managing, storing, and sharing your research data

File Formats to Avoid Obsolescence

As technology changes, so too do the ways researchers can access and utilize data.  This includes ever changing file formats for proprietary software.  To increase the longevity of your data, it is recommended to use file formats that are likely to remain accessible for the foreseeable future.

Obsolescence-resistant file formats are typically:

  • Non-proprietary
  • Open, documented standards
  • Commonly used by the research community
  • Standard representations (i.e. ASCII or Unicode)
  • Unencrypted
  • Uncompressed

Examples of these formats are:

  • PDF or RTF (not Word)
  • ASCII or CSV (not Excel)
  • MPEG-4 (not Quicktime)
  • TIFF or JPEG2000 (not GIF or JPG)
  • XML or RDF (not RDBMS)

Image by Esteban.alej from Wikimedia Commons

For a more exhaustive list of recommended file formats to avoid obsolescence, visit -