Data Compression


Survey Formats


Basic Terms

Variable Length Codes


Prefix Codes

Distribution of Code Lengths

Code Trees

Compression Methods

Data Formats




Prefix Codes (Prefix Property)

Prefix Property:
No code word is the prefix
of any other code word.

Coding schemes constructed according to the prefix property are unambiguously decodable at any time. Such a code will be called a prefix code.


   a  -  0
   b  -  10
   c  -  110
   d  -  111

No one of the shorter sequences '0' and '10' are used as the leading part of any other code. If a decoder will find such a sequence in a data stream, the code can unambiguously be assigned to the particular symbol.

Any code representable by a code tree has the prefix property provided that the codes are assigned to the leaf nodes. Moreover a variety of other coding schemes exist that are also unambiguously decodable but not belonging to the class of prefix codes.


    a   -   1
    b   -   10
    c   -   100
    d   -   1000

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 Code Trees 

Variable Length Codes Interpretation Distribution of Code Lengths