GIF, CompuServe Graphics Interchange Format (.gif)

The GIF Raster image file format

GIF is the internet’s favorite image file type due to its abilities to animate images. GIF files use bitmap images and allow up to 8 bits/pixel. This allows 256 colors in the 24-bit RGB color space. Not all GIF images are animated; many logos and images with sharp, defined lines and edges, and a transparent background utilize the GIF extension. Compression for GIF files is lossless so the size is reduced without changing the quality. This allows the file to be converted to another file type without excessive loss of quality.

Technical details of GIF files

Compuserve created the GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) for online use and made the information available to the public. The 256 colors per GIF image is capable of using the LZW (Lempel Zev Welch) form of file compression which removes the inefficient sections of data to reduce the decrease of quality of the image and ensure a better quality image. The raster data is compressed to the minimum file size. The number of colors needed in the image is reduced by removing the colors not being used in the image. The maximum available colors is 256 but it can have as few as 2. The 2 minimum colors needed for a GIF image are black and white. Fewer colors lead to more efficient compression of the file.

More information about the GIF file format

File extension .gif
File category Raster image
Example file Download example_animated.gif file (7.7 MiB)
Download example_animated_small.gif file (141.77 KiB)
Download example.gif file (5.6 MiB)
Download example_small.gif file (118.95 KiB)
Associated programs Adobe Photoshop
Microsoft Windows Photo Gallery Viewer
Apple Preview
Corel Paint Shop Pro
Useful links More information about GIF
File conversion Convert a file to GIF
Developer CompuServe
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