Microforms are scaled-down reproductions of documents, typically either films or paper, made for the purposes of transmission, storage, reading, and printing. Microform images are commonly reduced to about 4% or one twenty-fifth of the original document size. For special purposes, greater optical reductions may be used.

Digital scanning of microfilm (see Digital conversion below).

All microform images may be provided as positives or negatives, more often the latter.

Three formats are common: microfilm (reels), microfiche (flat sheets), and aperture cards. Microcards, also known as "micro-opaques", a format no longer produced, were similar to microfiche, but printed on cardboard rather than photographic film.