JPEG 2000, the often-overlooked choice for archiving PDF

by Brad Selbst, Sales Director

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If you’ve ever taken a photo with your smartphone or received an image, you’re aware of JPEG, the standard format for digital photos. It’s everywhere. But what about the lesser-known JPEG 2000? Does it have its own uses? The answer is yes. Here’s why.

What is JPEG 2000?

In the year 2000, the Joint Photographic Experts Group created what they considered to be the next generation of JPEG image compression. Aptly named JPEG 2000, the standard offered better compression performance and superior image quality. Yet with the passing of time, most photographers have foregone the JPEG 2000 in the same way Betamax was shined on for VHS.

Therefore, JPEG 2000 won’t replace JPEG for digital photos like your vacation pictures. But if you use Google Earth, you’ll see JPEG 2000 images of your hotel and beach. If your doctor is doing your radiology pictures in an MRT, those are JPEG 2000 pictures as well. Watching new movies at the theater means you’re looking at JPEG 2000 pictures, too. And there are many other use cases, such as biometric applications.

But the venerable format is also used in archiving and business image compression applications. And the fact is, there are times to use JPEG 2000, which is why PDF supports JPEG 2000-compressed images.

Why JPEG 2000 is better?

JPEG 2000 offers a single approach to lossless and lossy compression. That means whether or not all original data can be recovered when a file is compressed, then uncompressed.

With lossless compression, every bit of data that was originally in the file remains. This is generally what you want to use for text or spreadsheets, where losing words or data could be problematic, even catastrophic.

Lossy compression reduces a file by permanently eliminating some information, so when the file is uncompressed, only a part of the original information remains. Lossy compression is generally used for video and many images, since they’re in the standard JPEG format.

When you need to account for quality, JPEG 2000 is a better compression tool. That’s due to the way the compression engine works. JPEG 2000 offers higher quality in the resulting image, even when you use lossy compression.

Since JPEG 2000 includes much richer content than existing JPEG files, the result is that you’ll benefit from vastly smaller files still containing the same level of detail as the larger original JPEGs.

JPEG 2000 also gives you enhanced handling of larger images as it can handle up to 256 channels of information as opposed to JPEG’s RGB (red, green, and blue) data. Images that are compressed using JPEG 2000 retain a much higher quality, even noticeable on a screen set at 72 dpi.

What’s more, JPEG 2000 offers higher compression ratios for lossy compression, typically compressing images 20–200% more than JPEG. That’s especially useful when you’re archiving documents—which you can readily do with PDF as it supports JPEG 2000. This reduces your cost for storage. You get a smaller resulting image file AND a file that replaces two if you need both lossy vs. lossless versions.

So as you can see, with this often-overlooked image format has some advantages that can especially come into play when you’re creating and archiving image-heavy pdfs.

And if you need to support PDF 1.5 or higher specification in your applications and products, know that Foxit’s technology stack also includes JPEG 2000 codecs for applications or SDKs for
JPEG 2000 and JBIG2. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more details.


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