What’s a file format?
A computer format is a convention on how a data is represented on a media. It can be:
- Specified: a description of the convention exists, and is sufficiently described to allow a complete implementation of it;
- Open: the convention is available without any restrictions of access or implementation;
- Standardized: the convention has been adopted by standardization agencies (ISO, W3C). Example: PDF/A.
- A wide utilization of a format can also enable it to be considered as a standard, even if there’s no official standard for it. Example: PDF ATTENTION : en anglais « standard » signifie « norme ».
- Proprietary: those formats depend on the existence of an owner. They can be published Example: Word
The level of durability of a format depends on these criteria.
Through a web interface, this tool enables the verification of a file, especially its validity and if it’s well-formed against the specifications of the declared format, to know if it can be archived.
You just have to download the file you want to test. The file is then analyzed by the tool which sends automatically the answer.
If the file is not well-formed or not valid, tutorials to help correcting the file are available for the user. If the problem is not resolved, the user can contact the CINES expertise by e-mail.
The list of the file formats accepted in PAC is available on FACILE (https://facile.cines.fr/)
For its mission of digital preservation, the CINES equipped itself with human and technical resources to develop an expertise on file formats.
Doing so, the question of the file format is fully integrated to the general problem of long term preservation of electronic documents. Many actions are carried out: promotion, awareness-raising, samples audit, utilization of computer tools…