Exchange format

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Exchange format is a term from electronic data processing (EDP) and mostly describes a file format that is compatible with many different applications on almost every operating system .

The first exchange formats were kept very simple. For example, the plain text format with pure ASCII characters for English-language texts is still an important format today if you want to make sure that the recipient of the text can read it. Exchange formats are not only valid across operating systems, they also enable data exchange between different programs from different generations of EDP ​​systems and computer technology.

Exchange formats play an important role, especially for long-term data backup. Very few formats can be read over decades. The Drawing Interchange Format was e.g. B. already defined in 1982 in order to enable data exchange at all and applies today - although it is a company standard - worldwide.

Many (more complex) formats are not permanently legible because their internal structure is a trade secret known only to the company using them. An example of this is the .123 format of the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet .

The use of documented, open standards such as OpenDocument (ODF) eliminates this problem. Accordingly, the popular text program Microsoft Word has been using Extensible Markup Language (XML) -based formats for some time and the older .doc formats have been disclosed. Nevertheless, Microsoft continues to go its own way and rejects the ODF standard.


For different types of files there are one or more widespread exchange formats as "quasi-standards":

Complex text documents

So-called " page description languages " typically combine text and graphics, which is why formats appear again in this section that fulfill special purposes under # Overview , but are more generally suitable for entire text documents :

  • PostScript and PDF (under "Vector Graphics" - Adobe Inc. ) -
    PDF is now the standard for platform independence and "putting online" finished texts on the Internet ( online publication ) if HTML (under "Text files") is typographically insufficient (fixed Breaks and perhaps also the structure in printed pages is desired) or can only be generated from the source code with great effort.
  • 2005: XML Paper Specification - Microsoft's competitor to PDF (.xps)
  • HTML (above under “Text files”) also combines text and graphics, at least in the sense that (except in dedicated “ text browsers ”) text and graphics are displayed in the same screen window. However, HTML generally does not (like a page description language) fix the line break .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. See The 8 most popular document formats on the web. In: Retrieved August 7, 2015 .