Tables for
Volume G
Definition and exchange of crystallographic data
Edited by S. R. Hall and B. McMahon

International Tables for Crystallography (2006). Vol. G, ch. 1.1, p. 3

Section 1.1.4. The Standard Crystallographic File Structure (SCFS)

S. R. Halla* and B. McMahonb

aSchool of Biomedical and Chemical Sciences, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia, and bInternational Union of Crystallography, 5 Abbey Square, Chester CH1 2HU, England
Correspondence e-mail:

1.1.4. The Standard Crystallographic File Structure (SCFS)

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By the 1980s, the many different fixed formats used to exchange data electronically had become a significant complication for journals and databases. Because of this, the IUCr Commissions for Crystallographic Data and Computing formed a joint Working Party which was asked to recommend a standard format for the exchange and retention of crystallographic data. They proposed a partially fixed format in which key words on each line identified blocks of data containing items in a specific order. This format was the Standard Crystallographic File Structure (Brown, 1988[link]). An example of an SCFS file is shown in Fig.[link].


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An abbreviated example of a Standard Crystallographic File Structure (SCFS) format file.

The effectiveness of the SCFS format approach was curtailed because its release coincided with the arrival of powerful minicomputers, such as the VAX780, in crystallographic laboratories. This led to a period of enormous change in crystallographic computing, in which new data types and file formats proliferated. It was also a time when automatic diffractometers became standard equipment in laboratories and the development of new crystal­lographic software packages flourished. The fixed-format design of the SCFS was unable to adapt easily to these continually changing data requirements, and this eventually led to a proliferation of SCFS versions.


Brown, I. D. (1988). Standard Crystallographic File Structure-87. Acta Cryst. A44, 232.

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