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The Computer Graphics Metafile is the only standard for graphical database specification designed to serve a wide range of applications. As such, this standard for capturing multiple, device-independent picture definitions is necessarily complex. CGM is a precise, cncise, and sometimes terse specification, and it is hard to grasp all the ramifications even afer several readings. The purpose of this articleis to provide some idea of the basic goals of CGM, its structure, and what it does and does not standardize, as well as to illustrate how it works when applied.