The RIFF that is known is not the true RIFF

In my previous rant I mention a file format called RIFF. Why can't I just google for a RIFF converter? Here's why.

The underlying syntax of most multimedia on Microsoft Window systems is called RIFF (Resource Interchange File Format: the most redundant acronym for a format I have yet encountered), so if you google for 'RIFF converter' you find audio software that understands 'RIFF MIDI' or 'WAV (RIFF)'. Some lists of file suffixes or file formats eroneously describe .rif as being RIFF in this sense.

How do I know this is not the format used by Corel in RIFF files? Here's a simple program for checking, based on some random description of RIFF format:

import struct

input = open('1a1', 'rb')
    hdr =
    chunkLen, = struct.unpack('<i',, 2)
    fileLen = input.tell()

    if hdr != 'RIFF':
        print 'Header should be RIFF but was instead', repr(hdr)
    if chunkLen != fileLen - 8:
        print 'This is not a RIFF file: chunkLen is %s but file length is %s' % (chunkLen, fileLen)

Needless to say, my .rif files do not pass this simple test.

The origin of the Painter RIFF format is probably Raster Image File Format, mentioned on the list of formats understood by GIFConverter. The devisor, Mark Zimmer of Fractal Design Software co-wrote the original Painter (Corel painter started life as Fractal Design Painter). The problem here is that, at the time GIFConverter was written, Painter did not support layers or vector graphics: it was just a flat image. These have been added either as extensions to the original RIFF format or as a new format. Thus GraphicConverter US (bundled with Mac OS X) lists RIFF as a format, but says that my .rif files are in an unknown format.

The upshot of this is that, when someone asks 'how can I convert my RIFF files', some smartarse googles for 'RIFF convert to PSD' and finds Graphics File Formats FAQ (Part 2 of 4): Image Conversion and Display Programs, which mentions support for the obsolete form of RIFF, which is of no use to me or anyone else.