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I'm looking for some software that would open files of type BigTIFF on macOS. These are not ordinary tiff files and they also are big in size and content. My needs are to open 6GB or bigger data files. (I'm not opposed to writing some code to do so, but I'd prefer a prewritten solution.)

I just need to view the images and be able to zoom in - I don't need to edit them.

For macOS are there third party options or any commonly-used external programs or libraries that I could employ?

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4 Answers 4

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Answer from 2023: the command line utility convert from ImageMagick was able to convert a BigTIFF file to other formats (such as png)

You can install convert / ImageMagick using Homebrew.

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Although this is an old question it hasn't really been answered.

I recently needed to create BigTiff images on my Mac using Python. If you have python available, I would check out the Python tifffile module.

Tifffile automatically generates Tiff files or BigTiff files depending on the size of the ndarray being written to disk.

Now to answer your question. Assuming you have a BigTiff file called temp.tif you can view it using the command:

python -m tifffile temp.tif
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  • Definitely on the slower side of things, but it does work. Needed to install matplotlib and imagecodecs as well to view my image.
    – JMY1000
    Commented May 4 at 3:55
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Yes, macOS includes the Preview app which can open large TIFF images and on Sonoma can open BigTIFF files directly.

By default, the Preview app is located within your Applications folder.

The Preview app actually offers a lot of functionality, including:

  • opening images and PDFs
  • editing images and PDFs
  • signing documents
  • sharing files
  • annotation

For more details, see this page.

If I've misunderstood your question, please feel free to clarify it.

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    Are you sure Preview would handle >6 GB TIFF images? For me, it looks like Preview loads the whole file into memory. And what do PDFs and signing have to do with bigTIFF?
    – techraf
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 13:48
  • @Monomeeth - Based on your answer, I'm guessing you're not super familiar with bigTIFF images (which is totally normal - I had never heard of them until two days ago.) There's some info about them here: bigtiff.org
    – user102656
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 22:50
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    @techraf To be honest I haven't opened a TIFF image larger than 6GB, but I do regularly open TIFF images in the order of 3.5GB. Preview often looks like it stops responding (even to the point the spinning beachball disappears) but then after a few minutes the image appears fine. Zooming in/out also works, after the initial zoom which takes a little while. Of course, the amount of RAM and type of storage you have will have a big impact on response and open/save times.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 23:05
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    There's a technical difference between 3.5 GB and 4.5 GB TIFF.
    – techraf
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 23:07
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    @mchen.ja I was starting to suspect that, as I just noticed you rolled back my edit to your question. Also, I did think there was a 4GB file size limit in terms of TIFF image sizes, although that may only be a limit with Adobe Photoshop (which will work with 6GB+ images but won't save any larger than 4GB). I also know many image viewers don't support more than 30,000 pixels in either direction (height v width). Thanks for the link to bigtiff.org (I suggest you edit your question in order to clarify exactly what you're trying to do).
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 23:09
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Try Graphic Converter, my go-to photo and graphic app for many years, handles some tough tasks.

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  • Graphic Converter is an excellent package, and will no doubt support BigTIFF in time, but as I've discovered as a result of researching the OP's question, BigTIFF is a new file format that isn't readily supported yet. Specifically, BigTIFF is a variation of the TIFF file format which uses 64-bit offsets and supports file sizes larger than the 4GB limit of the standard TIFF format (which only uses 32-bit offsets.
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 3:55

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