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Raw Graphics File Formats Information

1st Edition

Author: Edward Blake


This article describes programming information and data specifications for raw graphics file formats. Raw graphics formats aren't used as much anymore as most needs for them have been standardized into industry specific file formats.


What is a Raw Graphics Format

Early in computing history (such as on DOS), software applications have sought use of raw formats, sometimes device dependent on particular screen modes, to display graphical assets on the screen. Some programming environments, such as the various PC BASICs up until QuickBasic and QBasic, provided convenience functions called BLOAD and BSAVE for this purpose.

Often Raw formats were found on early DOS games, especially those made in BASIC. Sometimes these formats were simply used because of lack of comprehensive graphical libraries to use more structured formats that became ubiquitous later. Eventually PCX, TARGA, and PNG have replaced the use of raw files for these purposes.

Other uses of a graphical raw format is due to specialized data acquisition such as in photography, astronomy, medecine, etc. some of these uses are described in the digital photography raw file format section

Programming Information for Raw Graphics Formats

Raw files concerned with generic graphics are formats that may be used by some applications or embedded devices to input, process and/or output information. The information is either stored the way it is because it preserves information or corresponds to a certain memory organization without decoding. The information stored may be in any kind of depth, ordering, endian-ness and alignment.

Generally raw files will probably be uncompressed (but this is not always true), and they tend to be in 1-bit through to n-bit depths, they may have any amount of channels and they may or may not be interleaved.

Raw Graphics Layouts

Here are sample orders a raw graphic format could be encoded
RGB[R] [G] [B] [R] [G] [B] ...
BGR[B] [G] [R] [B] [G] [R] ...
CMY[C] [M] [Y] [C] [M] [Y] ...
CMYK[C] [M] [Y] [K] [C] [M] ...
Planar RGB[R] [R] [R] [R] ... [G] [G] [G] [G] ... [B] [B] [B] [B] ...

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for informational purposes only. Please note that I am not the person, and Iím not involved with the one(s), who made the file formats.