Data formats for images (but also for geospacial or geometric data) are usually classified in "vector data" and "raster data". Does this classification have a commonly used name? I am looking for a term that could be used as a property name in a library catalogue to describe image or geospacial data files.


"file name": "Map_of_Europe.jpg"
"file type": "JPEG"
"<the term i am looking for>": "raster data"

Here is a candidate I can think of:

Representation type: The main difference between vector and raster data is the way information is represented (as points, lines, arcs etc. versus as a grid). This seems like the most precise description to me. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be commonly used.


1 Answer 1


Well, for images that consists of pixels they are usually called raster or bitmap images. GIS programs quite universally call these just rasters. You could describe them as pixel matrixes. Thing is though most people just call them images or photographs.

Now then i would not personally call vector formats images at all. I would call them models, because thats what they are. Also i wouldnt geet hooked on the type of primitives they use, because they might not use the kinds of primitives you assume.*

The common feature that all vector formats share is that the image is not rendered to pixels, yet. Literally rendering is to be done later. So personally on a philosophical level i would like to call them delayed render models/images. Mainly because this would impart some understanding to the audience. But vector images are what they are commonly called, though most users just call them images too.** In a GIS context i would just call them vectors, to reflect the way they use raster.*** The problem is that vecto data may contain rasters, so are you prepared to say that its a mixed file?

So after this preamble i would call the term Model Type, or maybe Data Model.

* a model which consists of some sort of distance fields for example. Not common but might become common.

** isnt spoken language wonderfully blunt and imprecise.

*** GIS applications also usually have point cloud datatypes as well as which they usually categorize separately.


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