15 April 2021

What the HEIC? WEBP is going on with image formats?

A while ago, I wrote about how fonts are technology. And like any technology, it changes. Same is true for images. 

I just learned about HEIC images. (I’ve read this is supposed to be pronounced “heek,” but I think “hike” or “aych-ee-eye-see” should be equally acceptable.) Strictly speaking, HEIC is a file extension, and the actual format is HEIF (High Efficiency Image File).

I hadn’t heard about HEIF images before, because:

  1. The format is not supported by any web browser yet.
  2. The format is almost exclusively being used by Apple.
  3. The format isn’t supported by much graphics software yet.

Webp logo
I also have increasingly been running into WEBP images on the web. These are super frustrating, because almost nothing else supports them, so you can’t easily take a *.webp image and paste it into PowerPoint or most other kinds of standard productivity software. I can’t import them into Corel PhotoPaint. I’ve become a regular visitor to this online WEBP to PNG converter.

How do these two new formats stack up to the older formats, particularly in print?

Format Colours Transparency
JPG 8 bit No
PNG 24 bit Yes
HEIF 16 bit Yes
WEBP 24 bit Yes

It seems the major impetus to create even more image formats was file size. Both HEIF and WEBP files are smaller than either of the more common formats, JPG and PNG. If you are running a huge corporate website with zillions of images, like Apple and Google do, this is incredibly important. 

For creating a single user creating print content like a poster, this advantage is probably not terribly important.

For most academics, I think your best bet to to convert HEIF and WEBP images to PNG format. Looks like those online image converters will be getting a real workout in months to come.

External links

A new image format for the web

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