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

  • PNG, short for Portable Network Graphics, is a popular, high-quality graphic file format.
  • The PNG format is both lossless and supports transparency, making it great for web pages.
  • You can view PNG files in almost any graphics application, image viewer, or web browser.
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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 is 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 graphics application, image viewer or web browser.

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

Here are the key features of the PNG format.

  • Optional online format: Many websites rely on PNG to render images on their web pages.
  • Loss-free: Unlike many other file formats, including JPG, PNG uses a lossless compression algorithm that results in high image quality.
  • Supports transparency: PNG allows you to specify a transparent background, which is important 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 do not support looping animations.

A transparent PNG on a gradient background

PNG images can have a transparent background that lets the subject float over whatever background they are placed on.

Dave Johnson


How to open PNG files

There’s simply no shortage of ways to view and use PNG files – it’s a standard file format and is supported by just about every major web browser, file viewer, graphics and photo application for Windows and Mac.

This means that if you want to view a PNG file, just double-click on it and it will 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 search for the file and then open it in a browser).

PNG in Windows Photo Viewer

Double-click a PNG to open it in the standard 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:

How to convert PNG files

Although the PNG format is common enough that you should have no trouble using, viewing and sharing it in that format, you may occasionally want to convert it to another format. For example, a JPG version of the same image may be significantly smaller, 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 in essentially the same way. For example, here’s 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 select the format you want to convert the image to, such as JPG.

3. Name the file and click Saving.

The Paint app in Windows

You 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. How to use Convertio:

1. click Choose files and select your PNG file.

2. In the drop-down menu to the right to, select the file format you want to convert it to (such as JPG).

3. click Convert.

4. After a moment, the file will be finished. click fetch and save the file to your computer.

Conversion in Chrome

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

Dave Johnson


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