ESDS Program

ASCII File Format Guidelines for Earth Science Data


This document lists recommended practices for formatting and describing American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) encoded data files, such that the files will be self-describing and adhere to common conventions.


The ASCII File Format Guidelines for Earth science data was recommended for use in NASA Earth science data systems in 2016.

Specification Document

ESDS-RFC-027v1.1 - ASCII File Format Guidelines for Earth Science Data

ASCII Formats These formats have been evaluated with respect to these guidelines:
User Resources ASCII File Format List provides a checklist of the requirements and recommendations along with an evaluation of each of the above formats.

NASA Earth Science Community Recommendations for Use


These guidelines address a number of common-sense practices that can make data files encoded in ASCII more widely useful. The recommendations were developed by a community of users from NASA's ESDS community. The guidelines are meant to inform teams of basic practices that will provide for greater interoperability among systems that use data encoded in ASCII.


This document is meant to provide a checklist approach to be able to test whether a particular format meets the guidelines. As such, it is not possible to provide an exhaustive enumeration of practices that must be done or must be avoided.


This document provides a reference to determine whether ASCII data conventions developed by various Earth science communities meet minimum guidelines. Further, the guidelines in this document can inform creators and users of any ASCII-encoded data about whether their data files meet a minimum and necessary set of requirements.


The guidelines in this document were developed by a small group of ASCII data producers and consumers. It is likely that there are established ASCII data formats and practices in existence that are viable but don’t meet all of these guidelines.

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