Recommended file formats for your research data

The following table provides file format suggestions for you based on the type of research data you have. The best formats allow for data files to be preserved in the most straightforward way, so that they remain usable through software upgrades and changes in the computing environment. 

Format Best Good Poor
  • Plain text (.txt) -- ASCII or Unicode (Notepad, TextEdit, gedit)
  • XML with included schema (.xml)
  • PDF/A (.pdf) -- (See options in your PDF creator to ensure the most up-to-date PDF/A format)
  • Markdown (.md)
  • Plain text (.txt) -- non-ASCII or Unicode
  • Rich Text Format 1.x (.rtf)
  • Cascading Style Sheets (.css)
  • HTML (.html, .htm)
  • LaTeX with referenced files (.latex)
  • Open Office (.odt, .sxw)
  • PDF with fonts embedded (.pdf)
  • Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx)
  • all others



  • TIFF -- uncompressed (.tiff)
  • PNG (.png)
  • TIFF -- compressed (.tiff)
  • JPEG (.jpg)
  • GIF (.gif)
  • BMP (.bmp)
  • PhotoShop (.psd)
  • RAW files
  • all others



  • SVG (.svg)
  • Computer Graphics Metafile (.cgm)
  • Encapsulated Postscript (.eps)
  • Macromedia Flash (.swf)
  • all others
  • AIFF -- PCM (.aif, .aiff)
  • WAV -- PCM (.wav)
  • Note -- neither of these are compressed audio formats. For very large audio, or audio that is already compressed, it is advised to stick to one of the formats listed under "medium confidence."
  • Standard MIDI (.mid)
  • Ogg Vorbis (.ogg)
  • Free Lossless Audio Codec (.flac)
  • MP3 (.mp3)
  • MPEG-4 without DRM (.mp4, .aac, .m4a)
  • AIFC -- compressed AIFF (.aifc)
  • RealAudio (.rm, .ra)
  • Windows Media Audio (.wma)
  • all others
  • MPEG-4 (.mp4)
  • MPEG-1, MPEG-2 (.mp1, .mp2)
  • QuickTime (.mov)
  • Matroska (.mkv)
  • Ogg Theora (.ogv, .ogg)
  • Windows Media Video (.wmv)
  • AVI (.avi)
  • RealVideo (.rm, .rv)
  • all others


or Database

  • Comma-separated Values (.csv)
  • MySQL database backup
  • Other delimited text (please convert to CSV if possible)
  • dBASE (.dbf)
  • OpenOffice (.ods)
  • Excel (.xls, .xlsx)
  • all others
Computer Programs  
  • Computer program source code (unmanaged)
  • Managed source code (e.g. Visual Studio)
  • Compiled / Executable files
  • OpenOffice (.odp)
  • PDF (.pdf)
  • PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx)
  • all others