Are PDFs Better Than TIFFs for eDiscovery? And Why Does It Matter?

13 October 2020 by Ross ediscovery pdf tiff

Takeaway: PDFs are a step up from older TIFF files. They’re more secure, have extra features, and are becoming the industry standard. Most importantly, they help you do eDiscovery better. So it’s worth knowing some ‘PDF vs TIFF’ basics and finding eDiscovery software that can handle both.

Chances are you’ll have to deal with a ‘TIFF’ production at some point. So, 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. So, it’s natural that it planted itself firmly in eDiscovery culture. But the TIFF format hasn’t been updated since 1992, and although it’s still popular, it’s worth asking if this popularity is justified.

The case for TIFFs: Why are they still being used?

  1. They’re compatible with most computers and applications. This is both important and convenient when sharing files for eDiscovery.
  2. They’re relatively easy to use. For example, you can open them quickly because they don’t need much behind-the-scenes processing.
  3. They’re small and easy to share. They’re low-resolution files, don’t take up much space, and can be quickly emailed. Plus, each TIFF page is stamped, so it’s easy to refer to any section of the document.

The case against TIFFs: Why we need a change.

TIFFs can be a pain, especially if you’re dealing with an incoming TIFF production.

  • They are highly compressed, low-quality images and are often difficult to read.
  • It’s hard to search a TIFF file. They’re stored as images, so your eDiscovery search engine can’t ‘read’ the text directly. Some ‘text searchable’ TIFFs store each of their pages as a separate, searchable ‘plain text’ file. But this is still quite a clunky process.
  • They’re only as good as the software they’re created on. To be fair, this holds true for PDFs (discussed next) too, but it’s more apparent with TIFFs.

Modernizing eDiscovery: PDFs are the new TIFFs.

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a newer version of the ‘open on any computer’ TIFF concept.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 can download it for free from Adobe’s website.

5 reasons why PDFs are better than TIFFs.

Here are a few of their advantage:

  1. They 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.
  2. They have more features: You can tag, bookmark and annotate them. You can also embed hyperlinks, add watermarks, and get your computer to read PDF text aloud. You can’t do any of these with TIFFs.
  3. They’re 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.
  4. They are becoming an industry standard, especially when you have to archive files for later use. For example, US Federal Courts require information to be stored as PDFs – the ‘PDF/A’ subtype, to be specific.
  5. PDFs will be around for a while. TIFFs aren’t regularly updated, but PDFs are. So, TIFFs are more likely to be phased out.

So why does all this matter? Well, it’ll help improve the way you do eDiscovery.

There’s a clear hierarchy when it comes to eDiscovery file types. For productions, you ideally want native files. But if they aren’t an option, ask for PDFs. And only if PDFs are off the table too, should you accept TIFFs. If you’re able to explain why all this is important, opposing counsel is more likely to comply. And this will lead to better eDiscovery.

What’s next? Find the right eDiscovery software for TIFF and PDF productions.

1. TIFFs aren’t ideal, but try to find software that can handle them anyway.

The best eDiscovery applications will first combine the TIFF pages into a single document and then use optical character recognition (OCR) to create a ‘searchable’ text layer. This way you can use the software’s search engine to find keywords.

2. Make sure your software can handle PDF ‘[load files.]

( Most modern applications don’t need load files anymore, but the older ones do. So, it’s worth finding an eDiscovery service that supports PDF load files. Each PDF in the production will have a corresponding entry in the accompanying load file. Also, you want to be able to customize this load file by tweaking its metadata.

Looking for eDiscovery software that handles TIFFs, PDFs and PDF load files? Try GoldFynch.

It’s an eDiscovery service that prioritizes things that matter to small and midsize law firms like yours. That’s why:

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. 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 charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up front how much you’ll be paying. It takes just a few clicks to move from one plan to another, and billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch 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 trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch and you’re good to go. Plus, it’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • It keeps you flexible. To build a defensible case, you need to be able to add and delete files freely. Many applications charge to process each file you upload, so you’ll be reluctant to let your case organically shrink and grow. And this stifles you. With GoldFynch, you get unlimited processing for free. So, on a 3 GB plan, you could add and delete 5 GB of data at no extra cost – as long as there’s only 3 GB in your case at any point. And if you do cross 3 GB, your plan upgrades automatically and you’ll be charged for only the time spent on each plan. That’s the beauty of prorated pricing.
  • Access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.