Photographing a volcano with the iPhone - Symbol image HEIF / HEIC format

What you need to know about the HEIC format

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One thing in advance. There is a slight inaccuracy in the title of this post. Actually, this is about the HEIF format. HEIC, on the other hand, is a file extension of the format (more on this below).

HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image File Format. The HEIF format is a modern container format for images and image sequences that was released in its current form in 2015. As of 2017, it became the standard format for photos on Apple’s macOS and iOS operating systems. Since iPhone users mostly shoot in HEIF format since then, the format advanced within a short time to a serious competitor for the outdated JPEG format.


You may have noticed that the file extension can be .heif or .heic. Both extensions stand for files in HEIF format as indicated above. In fact, there are six more endings, but that’s just by the way. The most common extension you will encounter is .heic. It indicates that a certain encoding has been used, namely the HEVC standard*, which was originally developed for compressing video files. This codec is also used on Apple devices, so the extension there is usually .heic.

* HEVC stands for High Efficiency Video Coding.

7 Advantages of HEIF over JPEG

The HEIF format has some substantial advantages over the JPEG format. The most important ones are listed here in descending order:

  1. Higher image quality with the same or even smaller file size (when using HEVC).
  2. Multimedia support: As a container format, HEIF allows multiple images to be stored in one file. Image sequences and animations are therefore no problem for the format. Furthermore, the integration of audio data is also possible.
  3. Higher color depth possible, e.g. High Dynamic Range (HDR) with 10 bits per color channel. Theoretically, even 16 bits per color channel can be stored.
  4. Support for transparency by alpha channel (as with PNG format).
  5. Support for depth maps that can be evaluated for digital bokeh effects, for example.
  6. High flexibility. If required, the HEVC codec can also be used, for example, so that lossless compression is applied.
  7. Lossless editing via image derivatives(derived images): Instructions for rotating or cropping as well as arranging and blending images can be rendered spontaneously (on-the-fly) and consume minimal memory.

As you can see, there are numerous plus points over JPEG. The only disadvantage of using the HEIF format is the lack of compatibility with older programs or devices. For this reason, HEIC files are still converted to the more common JPEG format by many users. We will explain how to do this in detail in the next section.

How can I convert HEIC files to JPG files?

On Windows, the HEIF format is fully supported as of Windows 10 (Update 1809). You can simply open the corresponding files with the Windows on-board programs Photos or Paint and then save them as a JPG file using the Save As command.

On the Mac (as of macOS High Sierra), the procedure is more or less the same. Open the HEIC or HEIF file with the on-board program Preview. Then, when you click Export under File in the menu, simply specify JPEG as the export format in the dialog box.
Of course, this approach is only practical if a single file needs to be converted every now and then. How to convert many files in one go you will learn below.

Important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Converting HEIC files to other formats may result in quality loss. Therefore, we recommend keeping the original files to be on the safe side.
  2. There are also numerous websites that offer image file conversion. However, you should be careful with such services. When you upload image files to third-party servers, all metadata also falls into the hands of the operator.

How can I convert multiple HEIC files at once?

If there are larger amounts of files, you should use a batch conversion tool. The most elegant way to do this is via a shell like Bash or PowerShell. However, the handling via command line is a big hurdle. After all, the vast majority of users only know how to work via a graphical user interface and are not familiar with the syntax of a shell. In this respect, we will first introduce the image viewer IrfanView, which allows batch conversions without the knowledge of commands, but is still very efficient.

Variant 1 – Batch conversion with IrfanView

IrfanView is a program that is free for non-commercial use. It can be used to batch convert HEIC files to JPEG format. The corresponding settings are made under the menu item File > Batch (batch) conversion / renaming .
The next step is to determine which files will go into the batch. This is done via the usual structure of your file manager (e.g. Windows Explorer). The last step is to define the destination folder and you are ready to go.

Screenshot from IrfanView under Windows

Of course, there are many additional options, especially when converting to JPEG format. However, we cannot go into that in detail here. We would just like to point out the particularly handy Set File Size option. Each file is then converted to fit the desired size.

Variant 2 – Batch conversion via shell command
(advanced only)

Converting HEIC to JPG via a shell is particularly straightforward and the tool of choice for many advanced users. For processing, the free tool ImageMagick is a good choice here, which enables the conversion of large image sets with a few simple commands.

We use Windows PowerShell in our example. Use the following command line to convert all HEIC files in the source directory to JPG.

magick mogrify -format jpg *.heic

If you want to influence the quality and size of the files, you can additionally set the quality parameter.

magick mogrify -format jpg -quality 85 *.heic

The quality parameter can be between 1 and 100. Thus, more or less compressed JPG files can be created as needed. However, the value should be chosen so that the files are not unnecessarily inflated. Experience shows that the corresponding threshold value is between 80 and 90.

Note: When using Bash, omit the preceding magick.

By the way, the performance of ImageMagick is hard to beat. Even folders with hundreds of files are processed by the program within a very short time. For users who find command lines daunting, there is also a graphical user interface (GUI). Nevertheless, it should be noted that ImageMagick is rather a solution for experts and developers. Typical end users are not really addressed already due to some hurdles during installation.

Which programs can be used to edit HEIC files?

There are numerous programs for editing HEIC or HEIF files. The easiest app to use to edit (not just open) HEIC files is probably Microsoft Paint (as of Windows 10 Update 1809). Professional applications that support editing files in HEIF format in current version are for example:

    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Adobe Lightroom
    • Affinity Photo
    • Corel PaintShop Pro
    • Gimp (Freeware)
    • Krita (Freeware)


HEIF is a relatively new image format used mainly on Apple devices. It offers some advantages over the JPEG format, with the higher image quality (at the same size) certainly being the most important plus point. HEIF is now supported by many applications and devices. Nevertheless, HEIF or HEIC files are often converted to JPEG format. The top dog among the image formats is not easily displaced.

Manage HEIC files with image management from teamnext

The teamnext | Media Hub is a cloud-based software for the management of media files, which is used via the browser. All common image formats are supported, including the HEIF format, of course. Batch conversion of HEIC files to JPEG format is quick and easy with Media Hub. The desired files just need to be marked and with a few clicks they can be converted and downloaded.
In addition, teamnext places a particularly high value on the data protection-compliant storage of all media files. We do not use any third-party tools and process your data exclusively on servers in European data centers: highly secured and DSGVO-compliant.

If we have made you curious and you just want to try out the various functions of our image management, you can get started right away with a free 14-day trial for teamnext | Media Hub. Additionally, you are welcome to book an appointment for a free online product demo with one of our experts. Simply use our contact form for this purpose.

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