What is Bitmap (BMP)?

The BMP file type is a bitmap graphic format, but what does that mean? A bitmap image can be defined as an electronic picture in which pixels are the smallest unit of information. Bitmap images can range from simple black and white pictures to complex color photographs. These files are often found on Windows computers and should not be confused with JPEG or TIFF formats.

A bitmap file is a type of image that will typically have dimensions in pixels. It’s used to display graphics on computers, TVs and other types of screens. Bitmaps are stored as an array of pixel color values with each value corresponding to either red, green or blue. There can be between one and four bytes per pixel depending on the number of colors present within the image: A monochrome (black-and-white) bitmap would use just one byte for every pixel; a three-color RGB bitmap would need three bytes per pixel; while a four-color RGBA .bmp would require four bytes per pixel.

Bitmaps also store information about how these pixels should be displayed including their location on the screen, their color values and what should happen when they are scaled up or down.

To open a bitmap image:

  • Windows: Right-click on the BMP file and use “Open With” to select a photo editor, such as Paint or GIMP. You can also drag your image onto an open window of these programs from Windows File Explorer.
  • Mac OS X / macOS: Double-clicking will should bring up the Preview app where you can then save it with different options. Dragging and dropping files into this program is not possible.
  • Android OS does not support viewing BMP images natively but there are third party apps that may work for you!

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