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I have seen TIFF files having various extensions - TIFF,TIF,tiff,tif. Are they same? Can I safely rename a file with TIFF extension to tif or will it cause loss of information?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

They all represent the same TIFF file format. The canonical spelling would be .tiff, but short .tif is recognized almost everywhere. Upper-case .TIFF and .TIF are less common, but Windows recognizes them.

  • The short .tif extension comes from the "8.3" limitation of MS-DOS and 16-bit windows. While newer operating systems do not have such restrictions, many people are still reluctant to use newer features (there even happen holy wars against spaces in names, but it's another topic) or type tif out of habit.

  • The upper-case variations might have been introduced in a similar way: Windows filenames are case-insensitive, and older operating and file systems weren't case-preserving either: even Windows 9x would still occassionally force a file name to all-upper or all-lower case, resulting in NAME.TIF instead of Name.tif. (Windows NT and all Unix-based systems preserve case in file names.)

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Yes, the internal file format is the same.

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Yes, but on some systems (eg *nix), filenames are case-sensitive, so I imagine that for example, an app that registers a filetype would probably not register every combination of capitalizations, so while the files may be the same, they may end up needing to be manually opened. – Synetech May 24 '11 at 5:13
@Synetech That's correct. If you use a number of programs to access your TIFF files, you will need to consider which extensions they will more easily accept, although most good apps will allow you to choose from all files, and will look at the header inside the file to determine the true type. I know people who rename all their TIFFs to .jpg in order to avoid firewall/virus/email problems, and the image editing programs they use don't require you to rename them - they figure out what the image format is from the first few bytes of the file itself. – Adam Davis May 24 '11 at 5:22
It's for the application I use - GRASS GIS, I had to come up with the question. For bulk import of data it recognizes files with tif/TIF extension but not tiff/TIFF. So I was thinking of renaming files. – Chethan S. May 24 '11 at 5:33
@Adam, the app may look in the file to find its type, but I’m talking about registering the file-type with the OS, so that running the file opens it in the app. As far as I know, even *nix doesn’t look in the file to find what type it is, so it’s up to the apps to say “files with this ext. are mine; call me when you need to open it”, which means that if there are numerous permutations of the extension, the app has to try to register them all. (Though last I knew, *nix doesn’t even really care about extensions; it only cares about attributes which makes me wonder how say, a JPG is executed). – Synetech May 24 '11 at 18:33
@Synetech Yes, if you want the OS to react to the file in a particular way you have to pay attention to file associations. – Adam Davis May 24 '11 at 19:41

There is no difference. Years ago, the MACS and APPLES used the four-letter extensions. Nowadays MS Office 2007 is using four-letter extensions.

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This doesn't actually explain anything, and the terminology is all wrong. – Daniel Beck May 24 '11 at 5:33
Thanks for encouraging me...:) – Sagar Khetia May 25 '11 at 5:09
Just wanted to give you a chance to fix your answer. I didn't downvote myself for that reason. – Daniel Beck May 25 '11 at 6:21

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