The flow cytometry data file standard provides the specifications needed to completely describe flow cytometry data sets within the confines of the file containing the experimental data. In 1984, the first Flow Cytometry Standard format for data files was adopted as FCS 1.0. This standard was modified in 1990 as FCS 2.0 and again in 1997 as FCS 3.0. We report here on the next generation Flow Cytometry Standard data file format. FCS 3.1 is a minor revision based on suggested improvements from the community. The unchanged goal of the Standard is to provide a uniform file format that allows files created by one type of acquisition hardware and software to be analyzed by any other type.
The FCS 3.1 standard retains the basic FCS file structure and most features of previous versions of the standard. Changes included in FCS 3.1 address potential ambiguities in the previous versions and provide a more robust standard. The major changes include simplified support for international characters and improved support for storing compensation. The major additions are support for preferred display scale, a standardized way of capturing the sample volume, information about originality of the data file, and support for plate and well identification in high throughput, plate based experiments. Please see the normative version of the FCS 3.1 specification in supplementary material to this manuscript (or at http://www.isac-net.org/ in the Current standards section) for a complete list of changes.
Keywords: Flow cytometry, FCS, data standard, file format, bioinformatics