.GIF Images FAQ

What is a .GIF Image?

.GIF is an abbreviation for graphics interchange format. Put simply a .GIF image is a picture that is animated and moves. The idea of .GIF images is that they are comprised of lots of static images bundled into a sort of slide show effect. When displaying one of these images the pictures will scroll through at a certain speed giving the appearance of movement. The speed at which a .GIF image displays its frames can be set when creating the image. These images are used widely across the internet often as an alternative to using videos for short clips, the advantage of doing this is that the short clip is automatically displayed and looped also there is no need for a play button. .GIF images should be used to display short or small clips of animation when used online as they can become quite a large file size and reduce page load times. A popular usage of .GIF images is for forum signatures and advertisement. The banners can be eye catching due to their movement however generally banners are made using Flash or Javascript.ninja snow man gif

Where Did .GIF Images Come From?

.GIF images were fist introduced by a company called CompuServe in 1989. Previously such moving images were only able to show in black and white and were of a larger file size. .GIF images were popular because of the great compression ratio used to show the images which had benefits for the slow internet connections of the time. The majority of people of this time were using 56kbps dial up modems which lead to a very slow loading time for rich media. .GIF images were also used as static and non moving images and were one of the first image formats used on the internet, the other being .XBM files (only black and white), later came .JPG files which eventually became favoured over .GIF images becoming the file format of choice for displaying static images on websites. Now days .PNG images are far more appropriate to use instead of .GIF images. .PNG images are mainly used for displaying logos or images with sharp edges and lines where as .JPG images are generally used for files such as photographs of scenic landscapes or people.

Why Are .GIF Images So Popular?

.GIF images are still a popular file format used on the web today, considering the age of the file format it is certainly impressive that it is still so popular. People love .GIF images due to the great novelty value of a moving image. Unlike a video .GIF images play automatically and repeat themselves. Another lovely novelty is the ‘flip book’ effect generated by a .GIF image. The flip book effect is due to a lower frame rate being used to display the images, which is an advantage because it lowers the file size resulting in faster loading times. These images are often used on websites with funny pictures and there is a culture of transforming popular humorous videos into a moving picture. The .GIF images are popular with people who use forums and online communities as they are often used as an avatar or signature for their profiles. There are also websites which are totaly dedicated to only having funny .GIF images, the downside of these websites is that they can require a huge amount of internet bandwidth as well as computer memory resulting in possible slow loading times, generally .GIF images can range from files sizes of 50KB to 5MB or more.

How Do I Make My Own .GIF Image?

Making your own .GIF images can be fun and satisfying yet can also be time consuming. The sure fire way to make a .GIF image is to use a program called ‘Microsoft GIF Animator’ which is a historical computer program created by Microsoft for making .GIF images. Showen below is a screen shot of the interface of ‘Microsoft GIF Animator’:

microsoft gif animator interface

The advantage to this program is that it is totally free and was made by a reputable company. The disadvantage is that the program is no longer updated or being developed. You can’t download this off the Microsoft website any longer, however there are plenty of free downloads of the program if you search it on Google. The top few results for a search of “Microsoft GIF Animator” will be virus and spyware free due to Google filtering such websites from their top pages however it is recommended to scan the file before opening it using a good antivirus such as “Malwarebytes Anti Malware” to make 100% sure it’s safe.

Using this program you will need to create each frame of the .GIF image a stage at a time. You may think this could be very time consuming however if you use a bit of innovation it will be easy. If you want to create an image from a video then you can pause it on each frame of the video and take a screen shot, crop the image and then use it, make sure to crop the screen shot in exactly the same place to avoid a wobbly image.

If you don’t fancy making your .GIF images the old fashioned and proven way then you can have a search with Google to find an easier way to do it. There are dozens of websites offering a .GIF creator and also plenty of paid programs too. Another good program is ‘Adobe Fireworks’ but this comes with a price tag.

What Are The Disadvantages of .GIF Images?

There are some disadvantages to using .GIF images instead of other rich media formats. One of the big disadvantages of animated .GIF images is the files size. They can be rather large in comparison to video formats or Adobe Flash player. A .GIF image would be inappropriate to use for an animation lasting more than a few seconds. Another disadvantage to .GIF image is that the picture quality is not as good as the quality used in a video and can sometimes appear a little grainy. If used correctly .GIF images can be a wonderfully whimsical novelty which can make websites and other media very enjoyable.