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The Lowdown on GIF

Surely by now you've been confronted with a choice: When you want to save to the Web, do you choose the GIF or JPEG file format? You won't find a lot of material written on the qualitative difference between the two formats, so this chapter is probably a really good place to unravel the mystery.

GIF: Indexed Color

As explained in Chapter 0, “Answers to the Most Important Imaging Questions,” the format of a GIF image is limited with respect to the number of colors it can hold, and as a result, the colors are palletized (indexed). They are indexed in a color table (which is stored in the header of the image file) for quick loading into, say, a Web page. GIF is not a new file format, and frankly, most of the interest in this file format is that it can display one out of the maximum 256 unique colors as transparent. The other novelty with the GIF format is that you can create animations (GIF can hold multiple images within a single file and then play them back in succession). But is GIF really the best file format for displaying the Mona Lisa or the sum total of your labors on an image (GIFs are usually made from copies of more color-capable work)?


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