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Pros and Cons of Metafiles

Because metafiles are in a sense a combination of bitmap and vector formats, many of the pros and cons associated with these formats also apply to metafiles. Your decision to choose one particular metafile format over another will thus depend on what kind of data (bitmap or vector) makes up the bulk of the file, and on the strengths and weaknesses of that particular type of data. With that said, we can safely generalize as follows:

  • Although many metafile formats are binary, some are character-oriented (ASCII), and these are usually very portable between computer systems.

  • Metafiles containing mixtures of vector and bitmap data can in some cases be smaller than fully-rendered bitmap versions of the same image.

  • Because they can contain high-redundancy ASCII-encoded data, metafiles generally compress well for file transfer.

  • Most metafiles are very complex, because they are usually written by one application for another application. Although their ASCII nature means that theoretically they may be modified with a text editor, modification of a metafile by hand generally requires a skilled eye and special knowledge.

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This page is taken from the Encyclopedia of Graphics File Formats and is licensed by O'Reilly under the Creative Common/Attribution license.