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
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
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
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.