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Preservation Services
File Format & Content Creation Guidance

This web page contains format considerations and recommendations for creating digital content suited for long-term preservation and use. This information was compiled for users of the Harvard Library's preservation repository (DRS), but could be applied more generally to any digital content with long-term value.


General Format Considerations

Unfortunately it's not possible to provide a single list of file formats that are appropriate for all use cases. The best formats to use for each of a DRS object's files will vary depending on how those files will be accessed and used, how they were captured or created, and their relationship to other files in the object. When requested, digital preservation staff will provide guidance on the digital file formats to use for a project if the content will be deposited into the DRS. The factors that are taken into consideration are documented in General Considerations for Choosing File Formats [pdf].

Still Image Formats for Preservation Copies

The formats recommended here are based on preservation considerations only. Other factors such as savings in storage space, that may cause one to choose a particular format, are not considered here. Only the still image formats fully supported by the DRS are listed here.

Acceptable file formats listed in order of preference:




- TIFF uncompressed in any color space supported by TIFF
TIFF 6.0 has been commonly used at Harvard for digital master images, and is considered an archival format suitable for long-term preservation. For more information about the TIFF format see Adobe's TIFF resources.


- JPEG 2000 JP2 profile with lossless compression
Some projects depositing content into the DRS have chosen to use JPEG 2000 for digital master images instead of TIFF. JPEG 2000 can offer storage savings - file sizes tend to be smaller and there is an opportunity to use the same file as the preservation and use copy. While JPEG 2000 is becoming more acceptable in the library community as a preservation format, there are still advantages to TIFF over JPEG 2000 for preservation. TIFF uncompressed is a simpler format internally and has more general tool support. For more information about JPEG 2000 see the JPEG 2000 website.


- TIFF with CCITT T.6 (Group 4) compression


- JPEG 2000 JP2 profile with lossy compression


- TIFF with associated alpha component
- TIFF with PackBits (lossless), LZW (lossless), Modified Huffman or Group 3 Fax compression




Less desirable image file formats (but still accepted into the DRS):

File format

Suggested alternatives


- TIFF uncompressed

- JPEG 2000 JP2 profile with lossless compression

TIFF with JPEG (lossy) compression

- TIFF uncompressed

- JPEG 2000 JP2 profile with lossless compression


Video Formats for Preservation and Delivery Copies


Codec Format



Preferred for Archival format

JPEG 2000*

QuickTime, MXF (MXF operational pattern or AS-07)

Recommend lossless compression



8 bit or 10 bit



For digitized DV tape


QuickTime, MPEG-2


Preferred for Delivery format



Any of the 21 different profiles

Accepted for Archival format


QuickTime, MXF (MXF operational pattern or AS-07)





* Harvard Library Media Preservation Services will provide reformatting services to produce these formats


Formats for Delivery Copies

If your content will be delivered by the DRS delivery services, choose formats for your use files that are compatible with these services.

DRS Delivery Service

Supported File Formats

File Delivery Service (FDS)

Technically any format. Initially FDS will only deliver the following formats until additional access/use policy and metadata is developed and implemented: ICC, PDF, Plain Text, SGML, XML, ZIP.

Full-text Search Service (FTS)

Plain text in ASCII or UTF-8 character encoding

Image Delivery Service (IDS)


Page Delivery Service (PDS)

Page images: JPEG2000 JP2, JPEG, GIF, TIFF (bitonal, CCITT Group 4 Fax compression)

Page text: Plain text in ASCII or UTF-8 character encoding

Streaming Delivery Service (SDS)

RealAudio, SMIL with sequential links to RealAudio files



    File Creation Guidelines


    File and Directory Names

    Reformatting and Digitization Guidelines

    Portable Document Format (PDF)


      Preserving Your Personal Files


      Here are some guidelines you can use to preserve your personal digital content: