File types are an ever-changing landscape as new options go through development and spread, only to get replaced by something better. Some file types even evolve over time, gaining new features that make them worth keeping around.
If you’re a web developer, or even if you want to increase productivity around your office, you’ll want to stay ahead of these next-gen file types.
As the global appetite for downloading files grows by the minute, so does the need to innovate with your files.
Here are ten next-gen file types you should know for 2022.
Before we get into the list, what are next-gen file types, exactly?
People have varying opinions on these, but they’re best understood as file types with significantly better capabilities than a current standard. This may include better compression, easy use on mobile devices or the internet, or open codes that make them easy to work with.
WebP is a Google-developed image format that supports both lossless and lossy compression. Its primary purpose is to create image files that match the quality of JPEG, PNG, and GIF, but with smaller file sizes.
File size doesn’t matter much for most end users because data storage has grown much faster than image file sizes for all but the most extreme users.
However, companies that host many websites still have to care about this, so WebP’s storage savings represent a significant benefit.
As the name suggests, WebP is mainly for use on the internet.
Unlike other file formats, it’s challenging to look at WebP images offline unless you install a special viewer, whereas many competing image formats have native display capability. This problem will likely disappear as OS developers add support, but it’s still a significant problem for now.
WebP may replace other popular image formats on websites, but it still has some issues with blurriness in certain areas and a lack of support for editing and viewing metadata. For now, expect to see it more on websites that display a lot of images.
HEIC is Apple’s version of the High-Efficiency Image File format, so you’ll mostly see this on Apple devices.
Its primary use is taking advantage of compression techniques to reduce storage space use on mobile devices, which suffer from limits that personal computers have mostly gone past at this point.
Incidentally, HEIC may not even qualify as a file type under a strict definition of the term.
Unlike other options on this list, which are distinct formats, HEIC is better understood as a way to encode a still image in the HVEC video format.
HEIC works well on Apple devices since it’s built for support from iOS 11 onward, but you may have a challenging time viewing these images on other devices. If you switch between Apple and other devices regularly, you may want to convert HEIC to JPG or have an automatic conversion system available to use.
Apple still has a minority of market share, so it’s unlikely HEIC will become standard outside of their devices.Also read: 9 Best Cybersecurity Companies in the World
HEVC stands for High-Efficiency Video Coding, which is a significant update to video storage and processing from the Moving Pictures Experts Group. It’s the successor to Advanced Video Coding, which is commonly used by Blu-Ray devices.
The general goal of this format is maintaining AVC’s video quality but providing better compression and transferring data faster.
This is extraordinarily important for broadcasts, in particular, as more and more people move to 4K screens and channels.
Actual file sizes will vary based on things like compression ability, but a standard definition video stream uses about 0.7 GB of bandwidth per hour. Video in 4K brings that up to 7 GB, a ten-fold increase, and the increasing market penetration of 8K video will bring that up even more.
Higher-quality videos always demand more space, so the more companies can compress video data without losing quality, the better. HEVC will likely replace other high-definition video formats, at least until an even better option comes along.
MPEG-H is an audio coding format from the Moving Picture Experts Group, the same organization behind the HEVC video standard above.
Its primary focus is 3D audio, which is important for things like virtual reality and complex home video setups.
Most audio formats support left/right data, but MPEG-H supports X, Y, and Z locations in 3D space to live rendering. It also supports as many as 64 loudspeaker channels and 128 codec channels, which is far more than most people ever need to use.
MPEG-H is currently less popular than some other audio formats, but as 3D technology advances, it’s more likely to become standard and replace any audio codecs that can’t provide similar benefits.
However, it’s not particularly compatible with older devices, so expect a slow phase-in as consumers replace older audio products.
JPEG Extended Range is a Microsoft-developed image compression standard. Its primary focus is continuous tone images, such as those from photographic prints and negatives. A continuous tone image is a sharp contrast to pictures made in a line with ink colors like you’ll see with regular printers.
JPEG XR is the preferred format for the Open XML Paper Specification, a fixed-layout document format that helps preserve the intended appearance of its content.
The format supports various additional features for layout and printing, making it more useful for offline work than online.
This format is mainly relevant if you intend to use the Open XML Paper Specification in your work. Almost no cameras take pictures in this format natively, so you usually convert an existing image into this format, then import it to the XPS.
This format will see continued use because of its association with Microsoft, but don’t expect it to become a general standard.Also read: The Top 10 In-Demand Tech Skills you need to have in 2021
JPEG 2000 is an interesting option that’s somehow still a next-gen file type despite being over 20 years old. Made by the Joint Photographic Experts Group, JPEG 2000 is the replacement for the older JPEG format. It supports lossless compression, progressive decoding, transparency, and higher ratios
In short, JPEG 2000 is functionally better than the older format.
However, it’s not backward-compatible with systems that only process JPEG. That means anyone who wants to use it has to add it separately, and most people weren’t ready to do that in 2000 when computers had far less memory and processing ability than they do now.
JPEG 2000 might finally break free of its limits, though, as there’s no technical reason to hold back any longer. Its outstanding quality and compression for images of the same size mean it’s worth using instead of its older predecessor.
Realistically, though, this format needs a strong push of support if it’s going to become a mainstream file format.
Its features make it worth using instead of the older JPEG format, but software makers don’t want to add it until consumers are using it, and consumers don’t want to use it until it’s in their software.
Adobe’s Portable Document Format is one of the most well-known next-gen file types, and for good reason. It’s also a comparatively old format, but it manages to hang on to its status thanks to active support from Adobe and the regular inclusion of new features.
Recently, Adobe’s been adding advanced features like video, 3D, and audio to PDF files.
These won’t show up when printing, but they mean you can do a lot more with PDFs that you couldn’t when they were just flat documents.
Functionally, PDFs are halfway to being self-contained applications at this point. Between fillable forms, accepting signatures, sharing content, and even built-in file compression, PDF files are easily one of the most important file types to know for 2022. Some popular PDF software include PDF Reader, Foxit PDF and Adobe Acrobat.
More importantly, you should stay up to date with the new features.
Advanced features aside, the most valuable factor of PDF files is probably the print-ready capability. Mixing options like fillable fields allow companies to clearly indicate what information to add where, with no risk of the user accidentally deleting things or ruining the printing format.
This mix of flexibility and consistency is extraordinarily valuable for businesses.
OpenDocument Text files are a free version of text documents used by software like OpenOffice. Despite the Text time, ODT is better understood as a file storage and layout system.
Like Microsoft’s more popular DOCX format, ODT can store images, objects, layout styles, and other basic information.
ODT files typically have four specific components in XML files that document readers can put together. These components include the document content, the styles, the meta-information, and the application settings.
Additional subdocuments may include things like thumbnails and images.
The XML base here helps make ODT widely compatible. Most word processors can open and edit these files. Overall, ODT doesn’t have quite as many options as DOCX.
However, it’s also not based on Microsoft and serves as a good free option for companies that don’t want to dive into the Microsoft product ecosystem.
Microsoft’s dominance of enterprise software means ODT isn’t going to replace DOCX anytime soon. For that matter, it’s partially an offline format, so it won’t go up against HTML5, either. It’s not a first choice for most people, but it will still see use, so try to remember what this is in case people submit documents to you in this format.Also read: 10 Best Android Development Tools that Every Developer should know
DOCX is the modern standard for word processing, developed as a successor to Microsoft’s previous DOC files for Word.
Although not quite universal, DOCX has several features that set it apart, including tiny file sizes, wide compatibility, and resistance to file corruption.
DOCX relies on XML processing, just like ODT. However, since it’s mainly enterprise software from one of the biggest companies in the world, DOCX has several features competitors don’t. It’s largely self-contained and works well offline, supports annotations and notes, and has a large number of built-in formatting options.
If businesses are sending text files to each other, it’s probably in DOCX.
That alone makes this format worth remembering. DOCX and Microsoft Word are so powerful and effective that they continue to be a popular choice, even with free competitors like Google Docs.
The one real drawback of DOCX is that it doesn’t support quite as many online features as HTML5. For companies that work, publish, and share entirely online, DOCX isn’t as valuable unless people expect to download and use the content offline.
HTML5 isn’t truly part of the next-gen file types.
Although not a document format in the classic sense, you can save files as HTML documents that other people can open and use. Optimizing browsers for HTML5 has impacts on areas like page loading speed, compression, interactivity, use of video and audio, and overall user experience.
HTML5 is by far the most flexible option for file types on this list. ODT and DOCX are basically just text and layout formats.
HTML5 can do nearly anything, up to and including self-contained applications you can run without internet access. Not everyone needs this flexibility, but it’s already in use practically everywhere as a major standard for the web.
HTML5 is better than DOCX for restyling content, exporting to other formats, some table formatting, compatibility with other vendors, and support on non-Windows devices. It’s not as good as DOCX for portability or large documents.
Next-gen file formats cross the spectrum from updated versions of existing formats to brand-new formats only usable with the latest devices.
The best options will continue changing in the future to match technology.
As MIT points out, this has some interesting implications for data storage. In other words, you should consider how likely it is you’ll need to access something in the future. Only when considering true access needs can you determine the best file type for a particular situation.
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