How do we reduce the size of TIFF images?

Having received feedback from hundreds of customers it was clear that TIFF was the format causing the most storage space headaches, after we'd tackled PDF, Office and JPEG files. However we initially thought that we couldn't do much with these files without changing them to a different format, which would almost certainly cause a host of problems.

Not all files can be reduced in size using optimization. In order for it to work there has to be some waste or bloat in the file that we can strip away or 'optimize' in order to reduce file size without changing the file format.

As we looked more closely, though, we realized that many customers had uncompressed TIFFs sitting on their networks. As many of the built-in compression methods available within TIFF are lossless, we figured that if we could find those uncompressed TIFF files and apply some compression to them it would be a fantastic opportunity to reclaim space without changing file format.

You can check if your TIFF images are compressed like this:

  1. Right click on an image and select "Properties".

  2. Click on the "Details" tab.

  3. Scroll down to the "Image" section and you should see "Compression" which will indicate if it is "Uncompressed" as in this example, or will list the type of compression otherwise.

As an example of how this works, you can see the uncompressed TIFF image below being reduced from over 29 MB down to just under 13 MB by applying LZW compression:

So having seen the potential, we got busy and have just released NXPowerLite for File Servers version 6, which introduces support for uncompressed TIFF files.  It will now search out any uncompressed TIFF files and apply lossless LZW compression to them. As with everything we do, the process is completely transparent to end users.

Some of our customers have terabytes of TIFF files on their servers, particularly those in Marketing, Advertising, Retail etc. so this represents a huge additional saving for them.

Learn more about NXPowerLite for File Servers

Updated March 6, 2018:

TIFF compression is now also available in our personal compression software NXPowerLite Desktop and our free online compression tool

Update April 29, 2014: 

A reader contact me to ask about 16-bit TIFF files and I wanted to share the details alongside this post for the benefit of other readers.  They noted that an "LZW compressed 16-bit TIFF file is larger than the uncompressed file", which is confirmed in this article.

The above is absolutely correct for the majority of 16-bit TIFFs, but not for 8-bit files or lower as in our example above.  To avoid this being an issue NXPowerLite will never overwrite a file with a larger one, so most 16-bit TIFFs will remain untouched if adding LZW compression would have increased their size.

Before adding this capability into our software we created a scanning tool which we shared with a number of our customers.  This brought back data on a few million TIFF files, within which we found only a handful of 16-bit files, they were predominantly 8-bit ones (or 1-bit black and white scans), so this gave us confidence that the feature would be very effective.