The SFW File Extension

By James Porter

Just as their film can't be developed at a One Hour Photo, Seattle FilmWorks files can't be opened by a normal graphics program.
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Looking through some folders of old photograph files or sifting through your fossilized floppy disk collection, you may have come across some unopenable files with a ".sfw" extension. These relics from a time gone by come from a closed film company and can be converted to ordinary image files.

SFW Files

SFW files are digital image files, like a jpeg or a gif. Unlike those more common file types, however, the SFW file format is not widely supported by graphics software. There are only a few software applications that can open and work with a SFW file. The format is proprietary, owned by the company Seattle FilmWorks. The company's practices often involved releasing media in forms that could only be developed or opened using its own products.

Seattle FilmWorks

Seattle FilmWorks origianally started in the late 1970's as a business that sold and developed film for motion picture and still photographs. They used a kind of film common in motion picture development, but not generally used in cameras made for taking still shots. As a result, Seattle FilmWorks film can't be developed by ordinary photo development shops, and instead must be sent in to be processed by them. The company is now closed.

Proprietary Files

Seattle FilmWorks continued with the same business philosophy when they expanded into the digital frontier. They offered the service of digitizing the photographs their custumors sent in to be developed, and returning them on a floppy disk. They came up with their own file format, SFW, to use for this, which of course could only be opened by their proprietary software.

Opening a SFW File

To open a SFW file, you need the original Seattle FilmWorks software, SFW PhotoWorks. It would have come with the photo files themselves on the same floppy disk. If you don't have the floppy disk, don't dispair. There are other applications that have been created to convert old SFW files into standard image file formats such as jpeg or gif. Some, including one like at this website, are free!