File Format - Specifications

Specifications

Many file formats, including some of the most well-known, have a published specifications (often with a reference implementation) that describe the method of encoding data and can be used to test whether a program treats a particular file format correctly. Not all formats have freely available specification documents, partly because some developers view their specification documents as trade secrets, and partly because other developers never author a formal specification document, letting precedent set by other programs define the format.

If the developer of a format doesn't publish free specifications, another developer looking to utilize that kind of file must either reverse engineer the file to find out how to read it or acquire the specification document from the format's developers for a fee and by signing a non-disclosure agreement. The latter approach is possible only when a formal specification document exists. Both strategies require significant time, money, or both; therefore, file formats with publicly available specifications tend to be supported by more programs.

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