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One of the first aims of the canSAS (Collective Action for Nomadic Small-Angle Scatterers) forum of users, software developers, and facility staff was to discuss better sharing of SAS data analysis software. The canSAS (http://www.cansas.org/) identified that a significant need within the SAS community can be satisfied by a robust, self-describing, text-based, standard format to communicate reduced one-dimensional small-angle scattering data, $$I(Q)$$, between users of our facilities. Our goal has been to define such a format that leaves the data file instantly human-readable, editable in the simplest of editors, and importable by simple text import filters in programs that need not recognize advanced structure in the file nor require advanced programming interfaces. The file should contain both the primary data of $$I(Q)$$ and also any other descriptive information (metadata) about the sample, measurement, instrument, processing, or analysis steps.