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What is a PNG file? How to open or convert the popular graphic file format

PNG files offer certain advantages over other common file formats.

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  • PNG, short for Portable Network Graphics, is a popular and high-quality graphic file format.
  • The PNG format is both lossless and supports transparency, making it great for webpages.
  • You can view PNG files in almost any graphic program, image viewer, and web browser. 
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

PNG is a popular graphic file format, perhaps second only to JPG today. It has a few advantages over JPG and is easy to work with because it’s widely supported. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a PNG file?

PNG, short for Portable Network Graphics, is a high-quality graphic file format that you can view in almost any graphic program, image viewer, or web browser. 

The PNG format is an alternative to the slightly better-known JPG file. While JPG is the format of choice for consumers, especially for storing images in digital cameras, PNG is more popular among professionals in web design, and in fact is the successor to the now largely obsolete GIF format. 

Here are the main characteristics of the PNG format.

  • Format of choice on the web: Many websites rely on PNG for rendering images on its webpages.   
  • Lossless: Unlike many other file formats, including JPG, PNG uses a lossless compression algorithm that results in a high image quality. 
  • Supports transparency: PNG allows you to specify a transparent background, which is essential for illustrators and graphic designers. This allows irregular images, illustrations, and logos to sit on top of a background color. 
  • No animation: Unlike the older GIF format (which is also lossless), PNG images don’t support looping animations.   

A transparent PNG on a gradient backgroundPNG images can have a transparent background which lets the subject float over whatever background they’re placed on.

Dave Johnson

How to open PNG files

There is simply no shortage of ways to view and use PNG files — it’s a common standard file format and is supported by virtually every major web browser, file viewer, graphic and photo program for Windows and Mac. 

That means if you want to view a PNG file, you simply need to double-click it and it should open in the default viewer on your computer. You can also view a PNG file by dragging it into any web browser (or use CTRL + O to browse for the file and then open it in a browser). 

PNG in the Windows Photo viewerDouble-click a PNG to open it in the default Windows image viewer.

Dave Johnson

The list of programs that can display PNG files is almost endless, but here is a short list of options:

  • Microsoft Paint (included with Windows)
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • IrfanView
  • FastStone Image Viewer
  • XnView

How to convert PNG files

While the PNG format is common enough that you should have no trouble using, viewing and sharing it in that format, you might want to occasionally convert it to another format. A JPG version of the same image can be substantially smaller, for example, making it easier to share. 

The good news is that almost any graphics program that displays a PNG file will let you convert it to another format like JPG, and for the most part, they all work essentially the same way. For example, here is how to convert a PNG file in Microsoft Paint:

1. In Paint, open the PNG file you want to convert.

2. Click File, then Save As and choose the format you want to convert the image into, such as JPG.

3. Name the file and click Save.

The Paint app in WindowsYou can convert a PNG to another format using the Save As command in your Photo editor.

Dave Johnson

You can also use a free online file converter like Convertio. To use Convertio:

1. Click Choose Files and select your PNG file. 

2. In the dropdown menu to the right of to, choose the file format you want to convert it to (such as JPG).

3. Click Convert

4. After a moment, the file will be completed. Click Download and save the file to your computer. 

Convertio in ChromeConvertio is an easy way to convert PNG files in a web browser.

Dave Johnson

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