What are HEIC and HEIF file formats and how do I view them?

Apple obviously doesn’t believe in the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” because iOS 11 introduced a new image file format called HEIC or HEIF. For those who were 100 percent connected to the Apple ecosystem, the potential disruption was minimal. But for those using different operating systems, HEIC and HEIF files quickly became a headache as only Apple could read them.

And that was only if you had iOS 11 or MacOS High Sierra. Any version of iOS or MacOS prior to that is completely incompatible. Like my old iPad from 2013 that got stuck on iOS 10. For those used to JPGs, GIFs, and PNGs, dealing with HEIC became a great fit .

So what exactly are HEIC and HEIF, and do they really have any advantages? Also, what do you do if you use different operating systems?

HEIC and HEIF files explained

HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image File. That’s the “standard” if you want and HEIC is the name of the file format. Well, technically it’s more of a “container” – heic to jpg can hold both image and video files, which is how iOS Live Photos work.

PNG files are large, but they are usually very large files (especially if you have transparent backgrounds). JPG files are much smaller in comparison, but can still be large. HEIC is Apple’s attempt to make image sizes even smaller using the best available compression methods. But to say that Apple invented the HEIC would be very misleading. They have simply taken something that already exists and installed it on their devices in an attempt to improve image files. HEIC and HEIF were made by the MPEG group that also made the AAC audio file format for iTunes. Which is obviously great, but do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?

How can I view HEIC and HEIF files?

The obvious advantage of HEIC files is that they take up less storage space on your Apple devices. Even though storage sizes are getting bigger and bigger on iOS and macOS, it seems like you never have enough room for all those picks. So anything that reduces file space is obviously welcome.

But the problem is that not everyone is faithfully married to Apple. Some people, like me, have open relationships with other operating systems, like Windows. My wife has an Android phone, so what do I do if I want to send her a photo from my iPhone? How does she open it? More on that later.

But if you ‘re fully attached to the Apple ecosystem, it’s a simple case of making sure you’re on at least iOS 11 and then the image will open as usual. But if one of your devices is stuck on iOS 10 or macOS Sierra, then prepare to cast a heavy hex and gnash your teeth. The only thing you can do is convert them online to JPGs.

So what exactly are HEIC and HEIF, and do they really have any advantages? Also, what do you do if you use different operating systems?

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