Minnesota  State Archives

Electronic Records Management Guidelines

File Formats
Annotated List of Resources

Primary Resources:

The National Archives (NARA).  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Selecting Sustainable Formats for Electronic Records. 

Answers to frequently asked questions about sustainable formats including the characteristics of a sustainable format, the importance of using a sustainable format, and contacts for more information. 


Library of Congress. Sustainability of Digital Formats.

Defines file format for still images, sound, text, moving images and web archives.  Discusses what factors make a format sustainable and how to evaluate file formats based on a set of goals.

Lawrence, G.W., W.R. Kehoe, O.Y. Rieger, et al. Risk Management of Digital Information: A File Format Investigation. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2000.

This publication provides an overview of file format issues related to records management strategies. The publication also provides a comprehensive workbook for users to help them develop a records management strategy.


Clausen, Lars R. Handling File Formats. Denmark: The State and University Library, The Royal Library, May 2004.

This report is a publication of the Netarchive.dk project, which seeks strategies for archiving the Danish part of the World Wide Web. The report offers a succinct and intelligent analysis of the issues surrounding file format preservation, including the categorization of formats, aspects of preservation quality, assessment criteria for future usability, and preservation strategies.


JISC Digital Media; Still Images, Moving Images and Sound Advice.

“JISC Digital Media is hosted at the Institute for Learning and Research Technology (ILRT) at the University of Bristol” and provides information about electronic media.  The website features technical and project management advice on still images, moving images and sound media including explanations of file formats.  The site has also compiled a glossary of terms.


ANSI/ARMA Standard 16-2007: The Digital Records Conversion Process: Program Planning, Requirements, Procedures.

“This standard provides information on keeping electronic records authentic during conversion, planning programs for records conversion, and understanding recordkeeping requirements during conversion… Part I of the standard addresses decisions relating to program planning and recordkeeping issues.  Part II discusses the actual conversion process.”

PRONOM: The File Format Registry.

PRONOM is maintained by the Digital Preservation Department of the UK National Archives. Visitors to the site can search within five areas (File Format, Product, Vendor, Support Period, and Release Date), each of which offer more options. Choosing “File Format,” for instance, allows visitors to search just by extension to get a straightforward list of associated software or by compatible products, which returns a list of products, versions, release dates, vendors, read/write capabilities, and invariance. Links on vendor and product lead to a wealth of additional detail. Reports can be easily printed or exported into XML or CSV (Comma Separated Value file) for further use.

Wotsit's Format: The Programmer's Resource.

This online catalog of file formats is broken down into categories such as “Graphics Files,” “Text Files/Documents,” and “Spreadsheet/Database.” Visitors can browse each section or can use the provided search engine to zero in on their mark. Each format carries a one-line description and a link to further information either online or in a download file.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

W3C is a consortium of organizations around the world that develops and promotes common web protocols. The site contains news, specifications, guidelines, software, and tools for web development on a wide variety of topics, including markup languages and transfer protocols.



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List of Annotated Resources  go to Storage Facilities and Procedures


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Electronic Records Management Guidelines, March 2012, Version 5.

Links updated March 13, 2012.