Data conversion can occur directly from one format to another, but many applications that convert between multiple formats use a pivotal encoding by way of which any source format is converted to its target. For example, it is possible to convert Cyrillic text from KOI8-R to Windows-1251 using a lookup table between the two encodings, but the modern approach is to convert the KOI8-R file to Unicode first and from that to Windows-1251. This is a more manageable approach: an application specializing in character encoding conversion would have to keep hundreds of lookup tables, for all the permutations of character encoding conversions available, while keeping lookup tables just for each character set to Unicode scales down the number to a few tens.
Pivotal conversion is similarly used in other areas. Office applications, when employed to convert between office file formats, use their internal, default file format as a pivot. For example, a word processor may convert an RTF file to a WordPerfect file by converting the RTF to OpenDocument and then that to WordPerfect format. An image conversion program does not convert a PCX image to PNG directly; instead, when loading the PCX image, it decodes it to a simple bitmap format for internal use in memory, and when commanded to convert to PNG, that memory image is converted to the target format. An audio converter that converts from FLAC to AAC decodes the source file to raw PCM data in memory first, and then performs the lossy AAC compression on that memory image to produce the target file.
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