Dealing with Apple Branded HEIF .HEIC files on Linux

Saturday, August 22, 2020 

Some of the coding tricks in H.265 have been incorporated into MPEG-H coding, an ISO standard introduced in 2017, which yields a roughly 2:1 coding efficiency gain over the venerable JPEG, which was introduced in 1992.  Remember that?  I do; I’m old.  I remember having a hardware NUBUS JPEG decoder card.   One of the reasons JPEG has lasted so long is that images have become a small storage burden (compared to 4k video, say) and that changing format standards is extremely annoying to everyone.

Apple has elected to make every rational person’s life difficult and put a little barbed wire around their high-fashion walled garden and do something a little special with their brand of a HEVC (h.265) profile for images.  Now normally seeing iOS user’s insta images of how fashionable they are isn’t really worth the effort, but now and then a useful correspondent joins the cult and forks over a ton of money to show off a logo and starts sending you stuff in their special proprietary format.  Annoying, but fixable.

Assuming you’re using an OS that is neither primarily spyware nor fashion forward, such as Linux Mint, you can install HEIF decode (including Apple Brand HEIC) with a few simple commands:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jakar/qt-heif
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install qt-heif-image-plugin

Once installed, various image viewers should be able to decode the images.  I rather like nomacs as a fairly tolerable replacement for Irfan Skiljan‘s still awesome irfanview.


Update: 2022-09-22

Jammy isn’t supported by the jakar PPA, but there are a few other options:

Easy, from Hritik Chaudhary in this post,

sudo apt install heif-gdk-pixbuf

should give gdk access, but not (it seems) qt.  You can use gpicview as an imageviewer with this library.

sudo apt install gpicview

Or build the qt-heic-image-plugin from source:

git clone --depth 1
cd qt-heic-image-plugin
mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
sudo make install

This machine required ECM from extra cmake modules, which I hadn’t previously installed.

sudo apt install extra-cmake-modules

to successfully cmake.

Update: 2023-01-18

A few updates, as is the way these days with built-from-git software,

cd qt-heic-image-plugin
git pull
sudo rm -r build
mkdir build
cd build
cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release ..
sudo make install

Get the C API version of libheif instead of C++ and an error handling fix.

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  1. […] Apple has just released their own still image format based on the intra-frame coding magic of H.265, .heif and maybe they thought it might be a good idea to suddenly pretend to be an open player rather than […]

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