PDF/A: An ISO Standard

This ISO standard defines a standard format (PDF/A-1) for the long-term archiving of electronic documents and is based on the PDF Reference Version 1.4 from Adobe Systems Inc. (PDF 1.4 is largely equivalent to the functionality implemented in Adobe Acrobat 5).

ISO 19005-1 is an International Standards Organisation (ISO) Standard that was published on October 1, 2005:

ISO 19005-1: Document Management – Electronic document file format for long term preservation – Part 1: Use of PDF 1.4 (PDF/A-1).

This ISO standard defines a standard format (PDF/A-1) for the long-term archiving of electronic documents and is based on the PDF Reference Version 1.4 from Adobe Systems Inc. (PDF 1.4 is largely equivalent to the functionality implemented in Adobe Acrobat 5).

Two Levels of Compliance

The standard specifies two levels of compliance:

  • PDF/A-1a: Level “A” compliance: in addition to exact visual reproduction it also includes mapping text to Unicode and structuring of the document content
  • PDF/A-1b: Level “B” compliance: exact visual reproduction

Future Development of PDF/A

PDF/A has been established as a line of standards. Additional parts are currently in preparation within the responsible ISO committee (ISO TC 1 171 SC 2 WG 5). It is expected that a second part PDF/A-2, based on a newer version of the PDF format and taking into account new technologies that have been added, for example JPEG2000, will be published in 2010.

ISO Technical Committee

ISO 19005 lies under the responsibility of the ISO Technical Committee (TC) 171, Sub-Committee (SC) 2, Working Group (WG) 5. Secretariat is the USA.

Member countries of PC 171 with voting rights are Austria, Bulgaria, China, France, Japan, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Members with observer status are Argentina, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, and Spain.

Literature about PDF/A

The PDF/A Competence Center has now released two publications dealing with PDF/A:
The reference book PDF/A In a Nutshell from Olaf Drümmer, Alexandra Oettler and Dietrich von Seggern offers a fundamental introduction to PDFA. The book is currently available in four languages: English, French, Spanish and Italian.

Also, the speaker presentations from the PDF/A Conference 2009 in Berlin have been published in an elaborately designed conference transcript. Copies can be obtained on request from the association.

Find more information about the available publications on the Publications page.

About PDF/A Competence Center

The first of the PDF Association's Competence Centers.

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