ARMA International, the professional association for records-managers, held its 56th annual conference and exposition at the Gaylord National Hotel near Washington DC over October 17th and 18th. The PDF Association’s PDF/A Competence Center booth was there to educate vendors and attendees alike on the value of PDF/A in records management and of International Standards for PDF in general.
Staffing the PDF Association’s booth was Duff Johnson, Vice-Chair of the PDF Association and Jeff Howcroft of NetCentric, a partner member of the PDF Association.
Over the course of two days we spoke with dozens of records-management professionals and vendors and learned a few details of interest to PDF Association members.
- Awareness of PDF/A is widespread in both government and the private sector. The subject arose several times during ARMA’s educational sessions; attendees visited our booth to learn more.
- Government agencies are looking to International Standards in general as a guide to their technology procurement.
- The overwhelming majority of attendees stated that they were either already implementing PDF/A or had near-term plans to do so.
Of the questions we received at the booth the following came up several times or were otherwise of note:
- Is PDF/A a means of making a file unalterable?
- How can “PDF/A mode” be deactivated in Adobe Reader and Acrobat?
- Why can’t I add notes to a PDF/A file as I can to all other PDFs?
- What’s the relationship between PDF/A and digital signatures, and how can both features be accommodated in a document retention workflow?
- Do I need PDF/A-1 or PDF/A-2?
- Do I need to worry about the conformance levels?
- Are wingdings, webdings and other “symbol fonts” permitted in PDF/A?
The greatest problem encountered with PDF/A was the inability (in some implementations) to alter a document marked as complying with ISO 19005. This “feature” was regarded as an unwanted interference in document management workflows. A typical comment: “Why does PDF/A lock the document? What if I need to replace a page?”
- The “read only” aspect of Acrobat’s “PDF/A Mode” was raised several times, with some booth visitors noting that it made editing cumbersome.
- Workflows that combine PDF/A and digital signatures are of great interest to records-managers, but require substantial explanation.
- Conformance Level U is of great interest to records-managers. Once explained, most attendees tended to regard this conformance level (newly introduced in ISO 19005-2) as vital. Some were shocked that the ability to reliably extract text was not included in the conformance level B software they have or plan to acquire.