PDF vs. TIFF: Which format is best for your next scanning project?

Image editing software displayed on two computer screens

Choosing the right file type for your document scanning project can be an overwhelming decision, especially when you’re not even sure why it matters!

But not every file format is created equal, and depending on your project, there is a pretty good chance that one will be better for you in the long run than another.

When it comes to document scanning services, the two main file types you’ll have to choose from are PDF and TIFF.

While both TIFF and PDF file formats offer various strengths and weaknesses, understanding what sets them apart can make all the difference in selecting an appropriate format that meets your needs.

What is a PDF?

PDF, (Portable Document Format), is a file format developed by Adobe Systems that is used to display and exchange documents electronically.

PDF files are designed to be platform-independent, which means that they can be opened and viewed on virtually any device or operating system without special software.

This makes PDF files ideal for sharing documents with others, as the recipient can view the document exactly as it was intended, regardless of the device or software they are using.

PDF files offer a range of security features, such as the ability to add passwords or digital signatures, which can help to ensure that sensitive information is protected from unauthorized access or tampering.

PDFs come in a few different flavors, including PDF/A, which is an archival format that strips down some of the features in favor of long term compatibly. The PDF/A format ensures a document can be reproduced exactly the same way, regardless of what software is used, making it an ideal choice for long term data storage.

PDF files are a popular choice for those who need to share documents across different platforms or devices, or who require the ability to preserve the formatting and security of their documents.

What are the advantages of PDF files?

  • The PDF format is the best option if you want to password protect your files, restricting viewing and editing capabilities to only those with elevated permissions for added security. TIFFs don’t have the features to match a PDF document and are typically less secure.
  • PDF/A is a a reliable and standardized format created specifically for electronically archiving and preserving documents. Storing documents as PDF/A files ensures that documents are preserved and remain accessible over long periods of time.
  • PDF readers such as Adobe Acrobat provide features that allow you to add annotations/notes to existing documents.
  • PDFs are text searchable
  • PDFs can contain hyperlinks which can be used to reference other documents

What are the disadvantages of PDF files?

  • Multi-page PDFs do not comply with some privacy laws.
  • You need to have a PDF viewer installed to open them.

What is a TIFF?

TIFF, (Tagged Image File Format), is a file format commonly used for storing high-quality images, such as photographs, illustrations, and scanned documents.

TIFF files are capable of preserving image quality without loss of information or degradation. This is because TIFF is a lossless format, which means that no image data is lost during compression.

As a result, TIFF files are often used for professional or high-end applications where image quality is paramount, such as in the printing and publishing industries or blueprint scanning.

TIFF files are also suitable for storing business records, patient files, student files, and government records because of their superior storage capacity.

Another reason people use TIFF files is because they support multiple layers, which can be useful in image editing and manipulation. This allows users to work with multiple images or elements within a single file, which can be useful for creating composite images or for making changes to individual elements of an image.

Overall, TIFF files are a popular choice for those who require high-quality image files and require the ability to compress them without any loss of quality.

What are the advantages of TIFF files?

  • TIFF files compress well, making them a popular choice when scanning documents with many pages, including business records, legal documents, and government records.
  • TIFF files are difficult to edit, which can be an advantage when you want to ensure the original document has not been modified.
  • TIFF support is built in to nearly every modern operating system, ensuring your documents remain accessible regardless of evolving technology.

What are the disadvantages of TIFF files?

  • TIFF files do not have any built in security features, so keeping your documents secure happens entirely at the server/storage level.
  • Web browsers do not typically support the TIFF file format. In order to view a TIFF file in a web browser, it must first be converted to another file format, such as JPEG or PNG.
  • TIFF files require an accompanying database to navigate as they are generally stored as single pages / images.

Which file type should I choose for my project?

Ultimately, whether you choose PDF or Tiff files for your scanning project will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

However, it’s worth noting that for most people, PDF files will likely suffice for their needs.

While Tiff files have their advantages, such as their ability to maintain high-quality image resolution and support for multiple layers, PDF files are more widely used and can be opened on nearly any device or operating system. Additionally, PDF files can include not only images but also text, links, and other multimedia elements, making them a versatile file format for a variety of purposes.

If you’re not sure which format you should use on your next document scanning project, get in touch with our scanning experts for more information.

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