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v. ~ 1. To create a copy with a format or structure different from the original, especially for preservation or access. - 2. To migrate information from one carrier to another.


In principle, an item can be reformatted without any effect on its content. For example, a nitrate negative can be reformatted by making a duplicate on safety film. However, Marshall McLuhan's observation that "The medium is the message" is a reminder that physical characteristics influence meaning. In the case of a reformatted photograph, some information embedded in the material nature of the original will be lost in the reproduction. For example, a modern copy print of a 19th-century cabinet print will almost certainly use a different process, may not be the same size, and may not reproduce the back; the process, size, and date, which can help date the original, are missing from the reformatted copy.

Data files may be reformatted so that they can be read by different programs or to counter technological obsolescence. For example, a document created in Word 5 must be reformatted before it can be read by Word XP or by any version of WordPerfect. Or, home movies may be reformatted to DVDs. Such reformatting may be imperfect, with a resulting loss of meaning.