A friend sends you an image in HEIC format and sadly you can’t see it? No need to call a marabout or change phone. Read this tutorial and you will know everything about HEIC.
Article prepared by Pierre-Edouard Laurent
When importing HEIC photo from your iPhone or iPad to your Windows PC, you may have noticed that your computer cannot read it. It is not a question of PC / Mac compatibility, it is just that this image format is exotic for your computer. On your recent Mac (High Sierra and later), macOS fully recognizes HEIC. Don’t panic though, it is possible to display a HEIC image in Windows and convert it to other formats such as JPG or PNG.
What is a HEIC / HEIF file?
HEIC (for High Efficiency Image Codec) is the default image format for iPhone and iPad. It appeared with the launch of the iPhone 7 (with A9 chip) and iOS 11 in September 2016. Contrary to what you might think, HEIC technology was not invented by Apple. It is the work of the independent group MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group), to which we already owe the famous MPEG video codecs. This international group of experts developed the HEIF (High Efficiency Image File Format) standard in 2013 and only finalized it in 2015. With the improvement of video sensors, the idea was to find a codec that would consume less storage space than JPEG, but also of better quality. In fact, the HEIF image format is based on developments in the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) video codec, which is often referred to as H265, as it is later than H264 (= MPEG 4). . The idea was to find a replacement for the aged JPEG, which dates back to 1992.
What are the advantages of HEIC?
Unlike JPEG, which is a simple photo codec (multimedia information encoding / decoding program), HEIF (and therefore HEIC) is also a container. That is, you can collect one or more image files, but also ancillary data.
This metadata can be EXIF tags (information associated with each snapshot such as ISO, shutter speed), XMP (editing stages of a snapshot such as rotation or saturation), an alpha channel (for transparency), or a depth map (recording a “cropped” face in portrait mode.) Apple has added other metadata specific to its HEIC standard as filters.
It is thanks to the HEIF that it is always possible to find an original photo on iPhone / iPad, despite resizing, emojis and other tweaks. This is because all changes to a HEIC / HEIF file are non-destructive, according to computer jargon. In other words, it is always possible to go back to the original photo despite cropping or further editing. A file invisible to us (and contained in the HEIC file) maintains the different editing steps and applies it in real time to the original image file, a bit like a gigantic Photoshop layer. This is a major advantage over JPEG, as image quality deteriorates as you edit.
Also, HEIF is a container capable of collecting multiple images. HDR, GIF or burst photo sequences taken on iPhone / iPad are therefore the result of HEIC.
Finally, HEIC offers better compression than JPEG. Apple advertises that its HEIC codec reduces the size of a JPEG file by 50% for equivalent or better quality. In fact, a JPEG image is encoded in 8-bit, while HEIC allows encoding in 16-bit (thus more shades in dark and light tones). The downside to this new codec is that it requires more computing power.
By default, neither Windows 10 nor Windows 11 can read this exotic file format. In Windows File Explorer or Photos application, HEIC files will not be recognized or readable. Therefore, a small piece of software needs to be installed in order for Windows to accept your HEIC file, particularly in its file explorer. Rest assured, it is not necessary to take out your credit card. There are a legion of HEIC apps (usually paid), but Microsoft has a free one.
It goes by the sweet name of “HEIF Image Extensions”. [ ]. Then click “Get” on the dedicated page on the web (which will redirect you to the Windows Store) or type “HEIF Image Extensions” in the Windows Store search box. The 1.52MB program is installed and your images are viewable in the file explorer as well as the native Photos application. If you have upgraded your version of Windows 10 (version 1803 and higher), your operating system will correctly read HEIC / HEIF files.
Download HEIF Image Extensions for Windows
HEIC is a format full of advantages, but it is still little used by a good number of software (the Office suite, certain editing software…) or web services (WordPress…). Therefore, we recommend that you convert it to JPEG or PNG for easier handling. Once the “HEIF Image Extensions” are installed, the Photos application, the viewer installed by default in Windows, can open but also save a HEIC file in JPEG, but also in PNG, TIF, BMP, GIF …
In addition, Paint, the basic Windows image editing program, can also open and convert a HEIC / HEIF file. However, Photos or Paint are limited in converting images as they cannot be batch processed.
Therefore, for batch conversion of HEIC / HEIF images, it is preferable to use specialized software. Several applications (free and paid) are available for conversion:
CopyTrans is particularly easy to use. After installing the app, open the file explorer and then right-click on the HEIC photo (s) to convert. A menu opens and then suggests “Convert to JPEG with CopyTrans.” Validate with a left click. Photos are converted to JPEG in the same folder. The original HEIC files are not deleted.
What apps can open a HEIC / HEIF file?
Newer photo editing applications are capable of opening (and converting) HEIC files. Hence, we notice paid tenors like Photoshop or Affinity Photo, but also open source software like GIMP (since version 2.10) or Krita.
What web services are used to convert HEIC / HEIF files to JPEG?
If you only need files occasionally, a web service may suffice. Unlike an application, it is not necessary to install an executable (sometimes it is forbidden on some desktop PCs). Only a recent web browser is required. Like any file posted to a web platform, it is potentially hackable and accessible to malicious people. Therefore, we advise against using a cloud conversion service for professional (sensitive data) or intimate images.
Online HEIC> JPEG Converters List (Cloud Computing):
By default, photos and videos are saved in HEIC. For better portability of your data, it may be more appropriate to change your settings. Just go to Settings> Camera> Formats, then check Most Compatible. From then on, photos will be saved in JPEG and videos in MOV (with MP4 codec). Remember that screenshots are not affected as they are kept in PNG format.
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