tl;dr – .heic is a compressed image file format for Apple devices. If you have a Mac, you can convert them to .jpg with the Preview app.

This morning I was writing my weekly post for my other blog (the one my mother reads — it’s basically a letters to folks back home). I had a couple pictures of my dead coleus plant on my iPhone to pop into the post.

I sent the pictures to my Mac, as usual, via the airdrop, and then dropped them into Tinypng. That’s when things went sideways. Tinypng said, “Cannot read .heic format.”

And I said, “WTF is .heic format?”

It turns out that .heic is a compressed image format Apple has been using for a while to save storage space on mobile devices. I hadn’t noticed, because, at least for me, up to now, when I’ve transferred images from my mobile things to my Mac, they did the conversion automatically to .jpg.

The only thing I can think to attribute the change to is having updated from OS Sierra to OS Mojave about 10 days ago. From what I can tell, the phone checks to see if it’s sending to a “compatible” device, and if it’s not, it converts to .jpg before sending. Apparently, it considers devices with Mojave “compatible” so this time it didn’t make the conversion.

And, so long as I’m looking at the pictures on my Mac, that’s fine. But when I want to put them in a blog post it’s a pain in the ass. Maybe someday browsers will render .heic files. Not today.

There are apps on the market to convert .heic to .jpg. They all come with a price tag as near as I can tell. So I started poking around to see if there was anything native to Mac. It seemed that since Apple had done this to us, they ought to provide a solution that doesn’t require paying extra. Fortunately, there is… if you have a Mac.

Open your .heic file in Preview. Then go to File > Export and you get a few choices for which format you want.

Love it or hate it?

On the pro side, I appreciate that I can fit more stuff on my iPhone if the files are smaller. That’s a good thing.

On the con side, it’s another step to convert formats when I want to actually use a picture. And it was an unpleasant surprise when all of a sudden, I had to stop and figure out what had happened and then hunt around for a solution.

I can only assume that for Windows users the Apple devices still make the conversion. If not, from what I can find at this time, the only way to convert is to buy 3rd party software.

For those of us who are on .heic compatible machines now, it would be handy of upon receiving a .heic file, the system had a pop-up to ask on the first encounter what you want to do with it: a choice between importing as is or converting to another preferred format. That would have been helpful.

So, in the end, it’s not the new file format that’s bad here; it’s Apple’s handling of the transition.

My 2¢.