P D F   o r   T I F F ?

Which is a better format for your images, PDF or TIF?

PDF or TIF? - LegalScans

Once documents have been scanned, a determination needs to be made as to how those images will be stored. In general, the two primary choices are to store the files in either PDF format or TIF format. While there are a few technical differences between the two, it is more of a preference choice than a technology choice.

PDF files are created using Adobe Acrobat software. The main advantage the Adobe claims for PDF is its portability. It doesn't matter what operating system you have or what type of hardware you have. You need to have Adobe's Acrobat Reader software, but that is a free download from Adobe's web page. PDF files are becoming more and more popular because of their ease of use across many different platforms.

TIF files have been the traditional format for scanned images. The TIF standard has been around for a long time and many of the more current operating systems include a TIF viewer as a standard part of the installation. This makes TIF format nearly as portable as PDF.

Both formats require roughly the same amount of storage space. In other words, a PDF file of a page and a TIF file of a page will be just about the same size. The decision on which to use is often based more on how the files will be used than on any technical issues.

The key issue is how will someone search for a particular image. If the files that have been scanned are "monolithic", PDF is usually a better choice. Monolithic means that the user will generally know which file they need and will search based upon the file name rather than on a more detailed index structure. For example, if there is a separate file for each client, and when you need some information, you want to pull the whole client file, PDF would be a good choice.

On the other hand, if you intend to have a great deal of indexing done to the images, the images will typically be stored as TIF format files. In this case, there is almost always some type of database associated with the images. The database allows for and keeps track of all of the index information. The index structure will either be in an external database, such as Access, Informix, or Oracle, or it will be internal and included as a part of the imaging software itself.

The bottom line is that, unless you are using a document imaging software program to scan, store, and index the images, you will probably want to store the images in a PDF format. If you are using a document imaging package, you will probably end up storing the images in a TIF format. The good news is that either format will work.