TIFF Vs. PDF eDiscovery: Which Is Better for Your Small Law Firm?

20 May 2019 by Anith Mathai eDiscovery small-law-firm pdf tiff

Takeaway: Both TIFFs and PDFs are fine for eDiscovery ‘productions.’ But PDFs are newer, more secure, and have better features.

Should I ‘produce’ my eDiscovery files as TIFFs or PDFs?

Actually, the best option is to keep your files in their ‘native’ format. That is, don’t convert them to TIFFs or PDFs. So, you’ll keep Microsoft Word files as files with the ‘.docx’ (Microsoft Word) file extension. You’ll keep Excel files as files with the ‘.xlsx’ extension. And so on. This way you’ll be able to see the original formatting like comments, ‘track changes,’ etc. Plus, you’ll protect all the important file metadata. But what if you can’t get hold of the native files? Or if you can’t find the software that opens these ‘natives’? Then you’ll have to convert them to TIFFs or PDFs. But which?

What are TIFFs?

The Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) was developed in the mid-1980s, by the Aldus Corporation. It was created as a file format to store scanned images. And it was revolutionary because TIFFs are standardized files you can open on any computer. Most operating systems come with a TIFF viewer. But the TIFF format hasn’t been updated since 1992.

What are PDFs?

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a newer version of the ‘open on any computer’ TIFF concept. Adobe created it in 1993 and they update it regularly. You need Adobe Acrobat to open PDFs, but Acrobat can download it for free from Adobe’s website.

Are PDFs better than TIFFs?

Yes. Broadly speaking, they are. PDFs are newer, more advanced, and have better features.

  • PDFs are more secure. You can password-protect a PDF. With TIFFs, you can only allow or disallow access to them. And since PDFs are regularly updated, they are better protected against viruses and malware.
  • PDFs have more features. You can tag, bookmark and annotate them. You can embed hyperlinks. You can watermark your documents. And you can get your computer to read out PDF text. You can’t do these with TIFFs.
  • PDFs are easier to search. TIFFs store files as images. So, your eDiscovery software can’t read the text in TIFFs. You’d have to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to make TIFFs ‘searchable.’ In contrast, regular PDFs are automatically ‘search ready.’ (Note: If you scan a paper document, it’ll be stored as an ‘image only’ PDF. And you’ll need to use OCR to make it searchable.)
  • PDFs are easier to read online. Web browsers can read both TIFFs and PDFs. But PDFs can be ‘web optimized.’ I.e., you can start reading specific pages of a PDF before the whole document is loaded. This speeds things up.
  • PDFs are better for printing and viewing. They usually have a better resolution. Although TIFFs are fine for basic presentations.
  • PDFs are becoming the industry standard. Especially when you have to archive files for later use. For example, US Federal Courts require information to be stored as PDFs (‘PDF/A’ subtype, to be specific)
  • PDFs will be around for longer. They are newer. And they get regularly updated. TIFFs have played a key role for 30+ years, but they haven’t been updated in over a decade. So they’re more likely to be phased out.

‘Producing’ eDiscovery files? Here are some tips.

  • Convert TIFFs to PDFs, using one of the many free online tools like tiff2pdf.com.
  • Store productions in the Cloud, so you can access them anywhere. Cloud-hosting has been around for a long time. If you use Dropbox, Google Drive, or any Apple product, then you’re already in the Cloud. Software giants like Amazon and Google lease storage and computing power to businesses all over the world. And their thousands of interconnected servers form a public ‘cloud.’ Once your productions are in the Cloud, you can access them from anywhere – at home, at the airport, or on-the-go. All you’ll need is a laptop and an internet connection. Learn more about Cloud eDiscovery.
  • Share productions through your eDiscovery application, instead of downloading and emailing or mailing it. That way, they stay encrypted and you can invalidate the shared link at any point (for example, if you share it with the wrong person). Learn more about sharing productions.

Need to produce files as PDFs? Or ‘natives’? Try GoldFynch.

It’s a next-generation eDiscovery application that prioritizes things that matter to small law firms. That’s why:

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s much less–every month–than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars less than many others. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch has a flat, prorated rate. With legacy software, your bill changes depending on how much data you use.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. It runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free, fully-functional trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It can handle even the largest cases. GoldFynch scales from small to large, since it’s in the Cloud. So, choose from a range of case sizes (3 GB to 150 GB, and more) and don’t waste money on space you don’t need.
  • You can access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud. And you can monitor its servers here.
  • You won’t have to worry about technical stuff. It’s designed, developed and run by the same team. So, its technical support isn’t outsourced. Which means you get prompt and reliable service.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?