EMF files.

EMF, which stands for Enhanced Metafile, is a Windows file format designed to store large amounts of image detail for high-quality printing. Created as an improvement on the traditional Windows Metafile (WMF), EMFs deliver crisper details and a deeper, more varied range of colours, making them an ideal choice for graphics printing.


Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of EMFs — plus how to use them — in this guide. 

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What you’ll learn.


  • What is an EMF file?
  • History of the EMF file
  • How to use EMF files
  • Pros and cons of EMF files
  • How to open an EMF file
  • How to create and edit an EMF file
  • EMF files: frequently asked questions



What is an EMF file?

EMF or Enhanced Metafile, is a large metadata file commonly used in the graphic design and printing industries. Some people prefer the EMF format because it can hold larger amounts of data than other files, like Windows Metafiles.


This increased file size allows for more detailed image metadata, such as richer colour details and improved graphical display. Despite being larger than previous metafile iterations, EMFs have a relatively small file size compared to other postscript files, such as RAW. This makes them a great choice for storing vital image information in a small, usable, digital package.


EMFs are 32-bit data files and often include a cached version of a graphic or print-ready photograph.



History of the EMF file.

Enhanced Metafiles were part of the launch of Windows NT 3.1 in 1992. Designed as an improvement on the WMF, these new metadata files ensured that file structures kept pace with improvements in graphic design and innovations in printing services.


Because they can store more data than other similar file types, EMFs can hold 32-bit RGB colour information and cross-platform display. That’s why they’re able to display images that look the same across different types of software.



How to use EMF files.

This file format is common in the design and printing industries, where professionals use it for:


Cross-platform display.

An EMF shops lots of important data about how an image should look on screen, including size, dimensions, colours and more. The file format is purposefully designed so that when the image is opened, it looks the same across all devices and platforms.


Printing performance.

During the printing process, the printer immediately stores additional file requests in its internal memory. As small, cached metafiles, EMFs can sit in a printer’s internal drive, storing all the information about the print job until the printer is ready to process it.


Discover more vector file types



Pros and cons of EMF files.

There are several advantages and disadvantages to think about before you decide to use EMF files:


Advantages of EMF files.

  • Small file sizes and cached information mean that you can store lots of image metadata in a lightweight format, which is useful for lining up print jobs on a busy printing device.
  • EMFs store more information, like RGB colour details, dimensions and more — unlike some similar file types.
  • Cross-platform and device-independent usage mean that images display as intended, regardless of the device used to open, handle or print the file.

Disadvantages of EMF files.

  • All metafiles, like EMFs, can be very difficult to modify if there are mistakes in the data. If this happens, it’s often best to start from scratch.
  • EMFs only work with Windows and Microsoft software or equipment. 



How to open an EMF file.

As a Microsoft creation, an EMF file only works with Windows OS. You can open them in Windows Photo Viewer, which is usually included in the standard desktop install of your Windows system.


  1. Right-click on your EMF file.
  2. Select Open with from the menu.
  3. Choose Windows Photo Viewer.
  4. View your file.



How to create and edit an EMF file.

To create and edit EMFs, you’ll need a Windows computer and additional software like Adobe Photoshop to save and manage the file.


  1. Right-click on your EMF file.
  2. Select Open with from the menu.
  3. Choose Adobe Photoshop or the programme you’d like to use instead.
  4. Edit your graphic in Photoshop as required.
  5. Save the file. Choose Save As > EMF.
  6. If desired, also save it as a different image file type, like PNG.
  7. You now have an edited EMF.



EMF Files: frequently asked questions.

Is an EMF a vector file?

EMF is a vector format. This means it displays certain information, including lines, shapes and overall dimensions, rather than a rasterised graphic in full. Learn more about vector files here.  


How do I open EMF files on a Mac?

EMFs are Windows-compatible files. It’s possible to open EMFs on a Mac, but you’ll need to convert the file into another type compatible with macOS, such as PNG or JPEG. You can do this by using a programme like Adobe Photoshop to save your EMF as a new file type.


How do I convert WMF to EMF?

You’ll need software to covert WMFs to EMF. There are several converting tools available for download or purchase online.

Learn more about similar file types to EMF.

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