glossary

Machine readable

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Data in a data format that can be automatically read and processed by a computer, such as CSV, JSON, XML, etc. Machine-readable data must be structured data. Compare human-readable.

Non-digital material (for example printed or hand-written documents) is by its non-digital nature not machine-readable. But even digital material need not be machine-readable. For example, consider a PDF document containing tables of data. These are definitely digital but are not machine-readable because a computer would struggle to access the tabular information - even though they are very human readable. The equivalent tables in a format such as a spreadsheet would be machine readable.

As another example scans (photographs) of text are not machine-readable (but are human readable!) but the equivalent text in a format such as a simple ASCII text file can machine readable and processable.

Note: The appropriate machine readable format may vary by type of data - so, for example, machine readable formats for geographic data may differ from those for tabular data.