File formats

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A variety of file formats are used to store patterns.

name description
apgcode apgsearch and its search results database, Catagolue, use apgcodes to classify and denote patterns.
Run Length Encoded (RLE) ASCII format most commonly-used for storing patterns. It is more cryptic than some other file formats such as plaintext and Life 1.06, but is still quite readable. RLE files are typically saved with a .rle file extension.
Plaintext Similar to Life 1.05, it stores patterns simply by representing dead and alive cells by different characters and "drawing" the pattern with those characters. Based on the format used by Edwin Martin's Game of Life program[1], which uses the .cells file extension.
Small object format (SOF) ASCII file format designed by Heinrich Koenig that is primarily used for storing multiple patterns in a single file, with one object per line in the file. It is about as human-readable as an RLE file, but it has the added benefit of increased compression.
Macrocell (MC) Commonly used for storing larger patterns than those stored in RLE format. [2]
MCell Introduced with MCLife 1.20 and continued in Mirek's Cellebration (MCell). It is an ASCII format combining both Life 1.05 and RLE and introducing extensions necessary to store all MCell features.
Life 1.05 An ASCII format for storing patterns by simply using dots (.) to represent dead cells and asterisks (*) to represent alive cells. This file format was designed to be easily ported; you can look at a pattern saved in this format in a text editor and figure out what it is. Life 1.05 files are saved with a .lif or .life file extension.
Life 1.06 An ASCII format that is just a list of coordinates of alive cells. Life 1.06 was designed to be easy and quick for a Life program to read and write, with the drawback being that the file size is very large for large patterns. Life 1.06 files are saved with a .lif or .life file extension.


  1. A link to the website: link
  2. Macrocell format at Golly's online help

External links