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File Types

Standardization is a critical part of digital library development, and the most fundamental level of standardization is file type.

The file types recommended below are (for "Master Copies") archival formats, primarily in open standards that do not require specific software to read. For images and video, resolution at archival levels is also critical.

Although not discussed here, a sensible (and consistent) file-naming convention is important for a successful digital project.

The minimum requirements for file types have not yet been developed by the Digital Library Team. This page represents a starting point for establishing standards for file types in the Washington University digital library.


  • Master copy: The digital copy from which other copies may be derived.
  • Service/Deliverable quality: representative and output qualities are reduced; emphasis is on efficient delivery to users of digital information.  Multiple files may be created at this level for multiple purposes or user communities.  When Service and Deliverable qualities are outlined separately, the distinctions resides in the assumption that Service versions are editable by the user, but Deliverable versions are not.
  • Preview/Thumbnail quality: Highly reduced in quality and size or duration, functions as an identifier; has little or no output or editing value

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