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Format Support at University of Alabama Libraries Digital Services

All following information applies only to content for which we can legally provide open access (see Access Permissions, and for which we have digital management rights (see the Digital Services Permission Agreement).

We wish to provide support for as many file formats as possible. As for specific formats, however, the proprietary nature of many file types makes it impossible to make guarantees. Put simply, our policy for file formats is:

  • While the file can be rendered using University of Alabama Libraries approved and current hardware and software, it will be made retrievable.
  • We will recognize as many files' formats as possible.
  • We will support as many known file formats as possible.

Incoming born-digital content is assigned one of the following categories:

  • supported: we fully support the format. With continued funding and support, we can offer Level I preservation.
  • known: we can recognize the format, but cannot guarantee full support. Level II preservation support is available.
  • unsupported: we cannot recognize the format; these will be listed as "application/octet-stream," aka Unknown.

(Levels of preservation support are described in Preservation.)

By "support" we mean "make usable in the future, using whatever combination of techniques (such as migration, emulation, etc.) is appropriate given the context of need." For supported formats, we might choose to bulk-transform files from a current format version to a future one, for instance. But we can't predict which services will be necessary down the road, so we'll continually monitor formats and techniques to ensure we can accommodate needs as they arise.

In the meantime, we can choose to "support" a format if we can gather enough documentation to capture how the format works. Proprietary formats for which these materials are not publicly available will be made available online until no longer renderable without emulation, using University of Alabama Libraries current hardware and software. It is possible that for extremely popular but proprietary formats (such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint), future tools will enable the reformatting of this content into better-supported alternatives. If funding and tools become available prior to obsolesence of this content, we will make every effort to migrate the materials and continue support. Even so, we cannot guarantee this level of service at this point, so we will still list these formats as "known," not "supported."

What to do if your format isn't recognized

Consider digitizing your content in one of the supported formats. We understand that there are always more formats to consider, and we would appreciate your help in identifying and studying the suitability of support for formats you care about. If we can't identify a format, we will record it as "unknown," aka "application/octet-stream," but we will try to keep the percentage of supported format materials as high as possible.

Format Reference Table

In the table below, MIME type is the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) type identifier. Description is what most people use as the name for the format. Extensions are typical file name extensions (the part after the dot, e.g. the extension for "index.html" is "html"). These are not case-sensitive, so either "sample.XML" or "sample.xml" will be recognized as XML.

Description Extensions Category MIME type
WAVE wav supported audio/x-wav
AIFF aiff, aif, aifc supported audio/x-aiff
GIF gif supported image/gif
HTML html, htm supported text/html
JPEG jpeg, jpg supported image/jpeg
MARC marc, mrc supported application/marc
PNG png supported image/png
Text txt supported text/plain
TIFF tiff, tif supported image/tiff
XML xml supported text/xml
JPEG 2000 jp2 known image/jp2
FLAC flac known audio/flac
Adobe PDF pdf known application/pdf
Postscript ps, eps, ai known application/postscript
Rich Text Format rtf known text/richtext
audio/basic au, snd known audio/basic
BMP bmp known image/x-ms-bmp
FMP3 fm known application/x-filemaker
LateX latex known application/x-latex
Mathematica ma known application/mathematica
Microsoft Excel xls known application/
Microsoft Powerpoint ppt,pps, pptx known application/
Microsoft Project mpp, mpx, mpd known application/
Microsoft Visio vsd known application/vnd.visio
Microsoft Word doc, docx known application/msword
MPEG mpeg, mpg, mpe known video/mpeg
MPEG Audio mpa, abs, mpeg known audio/x-mpeg
OpenOffice text odt known application/vnd.oasis.opendocument.text
OpenOffice presentation odp known application/vnd.oasis.opendocument.presentation
Photo CD pcd known image/x-photo-cd
Photoshop psd, pdd known application/x-photoshop
RealAudio ra, ram known audio/x-pn-realaudio
SGML sgm, sgml known application/sgml
TeX tex known application/x-tex
TeXdvi dvi known application/x-dvi
Video Quicktime mov, qt known video/quicktime
WordPerfect wpd known application/wordperfect
Unknown (anything not listed) unsupported application/octet-stream
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