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Data Management Resources

Proprietary Formats

If you're working with a specialized software that forces you to use a proprietary or nonstandard file format, you can do a few things to help ensure your data's usability in the future.

  • Look to see if there is an alternative file format that is compatible with the data you collected
  • Ask us to see if there's an alternative file format that's compatible with the data you collected
  • Note in your ReadMe file or other documentation what software, including the version number, you used and, if possible, keep a copy of that software available as long as the data exists. We can talk to you about that to.

Resources and References

Curating Data Formats

Do you need to review data that is in a specific format you are unfamiliar in? The Data Curation Network regularly produces Curation Primers on various file formats or data types with information on how to evaluate if the file (not the content) to see how to make the data more ethical, reusable, and understandable. 

Here are some of the great primers to investigate: 

Quantitative Data

Tabular data with minimal metadata


  • comma separated values file (.csv) 
  • tab-delimited file (.tsv)

Also acceptable:

  • OpenDocument Format Spreadsheet (.ods)

Tabular data with extensive metadata


  • R (.rdata)

Also acceptable: 

  • SPSS portable format (.por)
  • eXtensible Mark-up Language (.xml)


Textual Qualitative Data


  • eXtensible Mark-up Language (.xml)
  • Rich Text Format (.rtf)
  • plain text format (.txt)
  • PDF/UA (ISO 14289-1 compliant) or PDF/A (ISO 19005-compliant)

Also acceptable:

  • PDF (highest quality available, with features such as searchable text, embedded fonts, lossless compression, high resolution images, device-independent specification of color space, content tagging)
  • OpenDocument Text Format (.odf)
  • HTML

Geospatial Data


  • Shapefile (.shp, .shx, .dbf)
  • Esri File Geodatabase (.gdb)
  • GeoTIFF (.tif, .tfw)

Also acceptable:

  • Keyhole Markup Language (.kml)
  • Geographic Markup Language (.gml or .xml)

Find tools for converting between Geospatial file types on our Spatial Data page

Digital Images


  • TIFF (.tif)

Also acceptable:

  • JPEG2000 (.jpg)
  • PNG (.png)
  • JPEG/JFIF (.jpg)



  • Matroska Multimedia Container (.mkv)
  • Motion JPEG 2000 (.jp2)

Also acceptable:

  • MPEG4 (.mp4)

*uncompressed files are preferred over compressed files. If compression must occur, it needs to be lossless

Digital Audio (media independent)


  • Broadcast WAVE included embedded metadata (.bwf)
  • WAVE (.wav)
  • Audio Interchange Format (.aif; .aiff)

Also acceptable:

  • MPEG-3 (.mp3)

*uncompressed files are preferred over compressed files. If compression must occur, it needs to be lossless


NMR, IR, Raman, UV, Mass Spec data



Computer Aided Design (CAD)


  • Extensible 3D (.x3D, .x3dv)
  • AutoCAD DXF (.dxf)

Also acceptable:

  • PDF/E
  • Universal 3D (.u3d)
  • Product Representation Compact (.prc)
  • AutoCAD (.dwg, .dxf)

Research Data Engineer

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Lauren Phegley

Lauren Phegley holds consultations on data management, DMPTool, writing Data Management Plans (DMPs), and data sharing.

Head of Research Data Services

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Lynda Kellam

Director of Research Data & Digital Scholarship

See schedule button for current dates and times. Appointments available in person and on zoom.

Subjects: Data & GIS
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