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Acronym for Resource Interchange File Format. A multimedia file format created by Microsoft for use with the Windows GUI. RIFF itself doesn’t define any new methods of storing data; it instead defines a structured framework, which may contain multiple existing data formats.

Multimedia applications require the storage and management of a wide variety of data, including bitmaps, audio data, video data, and peripheral device control information. RIFF provides an excellent way to store all these varied types of data. The type of data contained in a RIFF file is indicated by the file extension. Examples of types of data that may be stored in RIFF files include:

Because RIFF is an umbrella name for a variety of multimedia files, RIFF files are referred to by the type of data they contain, rather than by the actual format name of “RIFF”. For example, a RIFF file containing Audio/Visual Interleaved data is normally referred to simply as an “AVI file” and not as a “RIFF Audio/Visual Interleaved Format File.” Only a programmer might ever realize that all of these different files are the same format, or even care.

And not to overlook the obvious: A riff (lower case) is a repeated chord progression or melodic figure, often played by the rhythm section instruments, that forms the basis or accompaniment of a rock or jazz composition. Many musicians use “riff” as a synonym for a “repeating, catchy musical idea”.

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