File Types and Uses in Medical Illustrations

File ExtensionDescription and Use 


Adobe Illustrator's standard file format. Adobe's integration within Creative Suite (CS) means that these files can also be opened within other Adobe CS applications. Note that Illustrator creates vector based files so .ai files have to have a defined canvas size when opened in an application like Photoshop.Adobe Illustrator icon

.docx & .doc

Microsoft Word's standard file format based on an XML data structure. These files can also be opened by applications such as Open Office and Apple Pages. .doc is Microsoft Word's former document standard which has since been replaced by the new .docx. Only Word 2008 and onwards can open the .docx standard so sometimes it is useful to save files in the old format.

.doc Microsoft Word File icon


Encapsulated PostScript file is a standard for interchanging graphics files, with individual images or complex layouts. Although it uses the PostScript language the files can often be opened by applications that don't have a PostScript file interpreter as the file includes a small preview image. Note that if it is the preview file that you view and you then print this to a non-PostScript printer you will not get a high quality print.


This is the standard for Adobe Flash's working files. Note that you do not use these files for viewing online or within interactive presentations. The working .fla files have much more data within them. Files that are to be used online or within presentations should be specifically output into a format such as .swf.Flash FLA file icon


An early digital file format it is limited to only 256 colors. The color limitation and compression method make this file format best for simple medical graphics such as charts and graphs and bold diagrams. This format is not suitable for realism medical illustrations.


The name is actually JPEG which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group and is a compressed image format. Possibly the most popular image format for digital cameras, there are a number of different quality setting which increase file compression but at the expense of image quality. Often used on websites for medical illustrations as complex images can be compressed without noticably loosing detail.


This is the basic file format for web pages. All browers like Firefox and Internet Explorer interpret HTML files and in most cases their associated CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) files. For medical illustrations you only need to be concerned with .html files if you are placing the illustrations as images or animations onto websites. We can advise and even provide ready made .html code for the placement of illustrations and animations onto websites.HTML file icon


Movie file format originally played by Apple's Quicktime but now a large range of players can use this format.


Adobe's Portable Document Format is the standard now for providing formated documents online being read with Acrobat. This format isn't used for finished medical illustrations unless to send proofs or in some cases when print format files are needed.Adobe Acrobat icon


PHP is a web based language used for more functional websites such as eCommerce websites. PHP code is usually used with a MySQL database to hold the information captured from the website. You rarely come across this file type in medical illustration unless you are building a functional website.PHP File Type Icon


Portable Network Graphics format was designed as a replacment for GIF and because it uses a lossless compression method images don't suffer from the blurring that can occur with JPGs. PNGs cannot be CMYK color mode. Frequently used for website graphic and also good to use in pesentations in order to keep the file size down. Some older applications cannot handle PNG format though. Fireworks saves it's working files in PNG format.PNG file icon


Photoshop's standard file format. Allows the saving of layers within an image. Adobe's increasing integration with Creative Suite means these files can be directly opened in other Adobe CS applications.Adobe Photoshop icon


There are actually multiple file extensions associated with RAW files. RAW files are created by cameras and are so named because they have had little processing from the data captured by the light sensor. This allows the user to process the data in a more controlled manner using an application such as Apple's Aperture or Adobe's Lightroom. This gives the user more control over the way the final photograph looks. Medical photographers often use RAW format.


.swf is the most common output format for Adobe Flash. It is this format that can be embedded into web pages. .swf files can be used to construct more complex interactive systems.SWF file icon


TIFF - Tagged Image File Format. A frequently used file format for high quality medical illustrations as it defines the image precisely. It also supports allcolor modes and is read by multiple applications making it ideal for delivery of the final illustrations we create.


The is the most basic of text file formats. It is often useful to provide text that will accompany medical illustrations in this format because lots of different programs can open .txt files. These files do not have any formatting of the text within them, if you wish to save basic text files with formatting you can use the RTF (Rich Text Format) which again can be opened by many computer programs.Text file icon

.xls & .xlsx

Microsoft Excel formats; used in medical illustration projects for providing structured data, such as listing of anatomical features or website content.Excel file icon


Company & Software Trade Marks

In the above table we have not specified each of the company and software trademarks, as they run all the way through. The following is a summary of the trademark information for above.
Adobe® - Photoshop®, Illustrator®, Flash®, Creative Suite®, Lightroom®, Acrobat®, Fireworks®,
Apple® - Aperture®, Pages®, Quicktime®,
Microsoft® - Word™, Excel™, PowerPoint™, Internet Explorer®
Mozilla Foundation - Firefox™

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