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I'm scanning a whole stack of vital records.  How should I save them?  Should I scan and save them as photos (.jpg or .png)?  Of should I scan and save them as documents (.pdf or .rtf)?  I know they'll be much smaller files if I scan them as documents, but I have plenty of storage space so I'm not concerned about file size.  What I am concerned about it quality, and which way is the best way to digital preserve these vital records for prosperity. Any advice will be welcomed.  Thanks.

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Between file size and quality, jpg is the way to go.


If you scan as a photo, you should save your template as a  .tiff  file, so your photo doesn't degrade every time you open and save a copy.  You can always open your  tiff  photo and then save a copy as a  jpg to send to a relative by email or upload to a web page - but always leave your original scan as a  tiff for security. 

I don't know very much about savint as a document - but with the problems I have had over the years with Microsoft Word - I don't know that I would trust it.  

Also - you might consider what can be best viewed using ebook readers and handheldPDA's and phones- people might be using those occasionally for research trips.   Just have an ebook reader myself, but have thought about getting something if I decide to take a research trip down to Indiana - there are a couple of libraries there I would like to visit.

Anyway, just some ideas.


As far as how to save photos, you should use .png files rather than .tif files.  .png files use lossless compression so that there is no data loss when images are opened and resaved (every time you resave a .jpg file it loses a little bit of data ultimately resulting in file corruption).  .png files are also about half the size of .tif files while being of equal quality.  Therefore, they take up much less storage space for archiving purposes.

My orginal question was about what format to scan and save documents for archiving.  Just don't know whether I should scan and archive documents as .pdf or not.

Thanks for the response.  It seems the consensus is to scan them as jpg files.  It's interesting that you use no less than 400dpi.  I've always used 300dpi for scanning both documents and images (pdf, jpg, tiff, png) unless it's an image that I know is going to need enhancing -- then I'll generally use 600dpi.

As to the pdf file not being very versatile, that doesn't concern me very much.  I'm not interested in sharing these files (I do share them -- usually as I scan them, and in whatever format the receiver prefers), only in archiving them:  I keep one copy (documents and photos and other images (i.e. downloaded census pages, etc.) on my computer's hard drive so that I can attach them to family trees, etc., and so that I can share them as necessary, and another copy of each file on an external hard drive as a backup, and I want to keep one more copy solely for archive purposes on a separate external hard drive (I may also want to archive a copy on DVD for extra backup security).  It's these archive copies that my original question was about.

Thank you for the info on the degradation of jpg files.  Nearly everything I've read says that jpg's lose data everythimg they're saved.  I hadn't realized that the loss is associated with EDITING rather than just re-saving.

First of all, if you read my original post, it concerns scanning and archiving documents -- it has nothing to do with photos.

Secondly, if you scan a photo at 300dpi and then, using photo editing software, resize the image to 8x10 inches, then save the result either as a png or a tiff file; the resulting image will be an 8x10 version of the original with no discernable distortion (in fact, to my eye there is NO distortion).  Scanning at 1000+dpi results in EXTREMELY LARGE files that are of no better visible quality than the method I just outlined.  If you send me your email address, I'll send you a copy of a postage sized photo that I scanned at 300dpi and then resized to 8x10 using the method I described.  I think you'll see that there is NO distortion.

Thirdly, scanning a DOCUMENT (which is what this whole thread started out to be about) as a pdf has nothing to do with " scanning a jpeg into a file with a PDF format".  I was asking about scanning orginal documents into either pdf or jpg format.  Not converting one to the other.

Hi, Chris.  I just saw your thread and for what it is worth, am going to add my bit to the thread learned from many years in document layout and digital art.  First, I scan every document/photograph regardless of what it is, in a *.tiff format and a *.jpg.  Each has it's own purpose and benefits.  The *.pdf for portability as in its name. The *.tiff for as close to original as I can obtain.  The *.jpg for versatility and publishing onto a website.  Due to the lower resolution, a *.jpg is useless if you want quality so use it only for publishing on the web. The *.tiff format is industry standard for high quality images. Besides the benefit of having a high resolution digital copy of your original, the higher resolution TIFF image has it's benefits if you are trying to read and transcribe handwritten documents as you can enlarge the image until you can see the words clearly on the monitor.  One point of view I take with this is "what would happen if there was a fire?"  The originals may be lost but I can always grab my laptop and run if need be.

What's your opinion on the tiff versus png debate?  From what I've read, there's very little (if any) difference in the quality of an image scanned either as a tiff or a png.  I understand that the png file takes up about half the space of the tiff because of compression.  Does this compression affect the quality of the image?

In order for a file to be compressed,data will be lost. Depending on the algorithm used to compress the file, more or less data is lost. One way of compressing is to identify like data and refer to it only once rather than by individual bits and bytes.  Don't ask me anymore about the all intents and purposes, you might not notice a difference, but data loss is data lost and less ability to enlarge the image and retain clarity.  I'm a purist and stick with what I did during my college work in digital design and desktop publishing.  I scan into a *.tiff format and a *.pdf format at first then create *.jpg's and other formats depending on what the image is going to be used for. For instance, taking the *.tiff into Photoshop and saving it as a Photoshop image in order to clean it up, or turning it into a *.jpg for viewing on the internet.  *.jpg's are ONLY for viewing on a monitor and NOT for printing.

If I recall, this thread originated with an inquiry as to what file formats to use. As I said, I am a purist and traditionally use *.tiff format to import into Photoshop particulary for the purpose of retouching, etc. You can use *.jpg to your heart's delight. That is your prerogative. Frankly, I'm not interested at the moment in what a two million pixel camera can do.  It has nothing to do with scanning and saving genealogical documents for the purpose stated in the original inquiry, not for boasting about knowledge of digital imaging.

Thanks again for the input.  You've confirmed what I was taught.  I used png's rather than tiff's simply because of the resulting file size.  However, I just got another 1TB portable HD added to my 2TB desktop external HD so I am not worried about file size.  My main concern is the preservation of vital and historical documents.  I preserve photos, too, but my original question dealt mostly with documents.


Thanks again.

I'm not sure what this has to do with the thread?



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