Wayne Brown began work on the manuscript in the spring of 1991. The task of collecting, organizing, and documenting the many file formats started well, but the size of the task grew quickly. New data formats seemed to be "discovered" daily. The goal of creating a comprehensive resource, one that truly covered all existing graphical data formats, became elusive. After one and half years of serious work, Wayne laid aside the project because the thought of making it "complete" became too overwhelming. Fortunately, Barry Shepherd agreed to complete the work.
Few surveys are ever complete in this day of rapid technological change, especially in this area where new data formats are continually created. This book is not complete in the rigorous sense; but it does contain a significant amount of information that we believe will be useful to many readers. The information in this book has been useful to us.
As of this writing there are several available books related to graphic data formats. Steve Rimmer has written two books about raster data formats in popular use on personal computers. These are Bit-Mapped Graphics (1990) and Supercharged Bit-mapped Graphics (1992). These books include a significant amount of working C code, and are targeted toward people who want to write software "readers" and "writers" of a particular data format. Another recent work is David Kay and John Levine's book Graphics File Formats (1992). It discusses 23 individual data formats in detail, including both raster and vector data streams. Most of their discussion is limited to two-dimensional data. Implementing software "readers" and "writers" of a particular data stream is one emphasis of this work, though no actual code is included. If your goal is software development related to an existing data format, these three books would be valuable resources to you.
This book differs from the above in two respects. First, our goal is to help you understand how graphic data streams differ and why. The book is organized according to data and design issues -- not individual formats. Hopefully it will help you make wise decisions related to their implementation and application. If you plan on implementing new data formats in the future, this book can help you make critical design decisions. If you are searching for an appropriate data stream to meet a particular application, this book will guide your search. Second, this book surveys, in detail, 51 different data formats and lists more than 80 others from a broad range of applications. As such the book serves as a general reference to graphical data streams. We hope this book is a useful resource for your work.
We are indebted to the people who helped us collect the information contained in this book. There are too many to call by name. Many times we telephoned total strangers requesting information and invariably received the information we were looking for, or we were directed to someone else who could help. We want to say thanks to all of them.
Wayne Brown would like to thank several people by name. Marjan Bace, the Publisher at Manning Publications, was a pleasure to work with. Thanks to his continual encouragement (and prodding) this book is a reality. And, without Barry Shepherd coming along to finish the work, it would still be an unfinished manuscript sitting on a shelf. Barry was asked to do the impossible: finish someone else's project. He did it with much enthusiasm and great skill due to his knowledge and experience in developing national and international graphic standards. Thanks also to Sam Reynolds who helped greatly with the initial work and who provided an invaluable sounding board. Without Sam's initial support this project would have never been started. Most importantly, Wayne thanks his wife who supported him throughout the long hours needed to complete this project. She is a wife worthy of honor and praise.
C. Wayne Brown
Barry J. Shepherd