PDF/A and the other PDF standards

PDF/A in a Nutshell 2.0 – PDF for long-term archiving

Specialist ISO standards based on the Portable Document Format are available for a wide range of purposes.

PDF/X

”Prepress digital data ­exchange using PDF” – since 2001
ISO-Standard for the printing industry

Back in 2001, an ISO working group developed a pre-press PDF standard, “ISO 15930”. At this time, customers usually sent printers “open files” from layout software. This method, however, always carried the risk of fonts and images going missing. PDF/X is able to eliminate all of these problems; it also has the advantage of carrying reliable colour information thanks to colour management settings.

The “X” identifier stands for “Exchange”, as PDF/X is intended for reliable print data exchange. Additional standardisation for PDF/X versions 4 and 5 has taken into account the newer features available to the PDF file format, including transparent elements and JPEG2000 image compression. PDF/X-5 also supports externally referenced elements.

PDF/A

“PDF Archive“ – since 2005
Standardised long-term archiving with PDF

PDF was also recognised early on as having great potential for archiving digital documents. In 2005, the ISO published the first part of the PDF standard for long-term archiving, PDF/A.

PDF/E

“PDF Engineering“ – since 2008
Construction diagrams with moving 3D models where required

This standard has been available since 2008 as “ISO 24517”; it is aimed at engineering documents such as construction drawings. The original data often comes from CAD software used for digital drafting. PDF/E can display rotating and folding 3D objects on-screen, using tools like the free Adobe Reader.

PDF

“Portable Document Format“ – since 2008
The ISO standard corresponds with PDF version 1.7

PDF itself was also standardised in 2008 as “ISO 32000”. The basis of the standard was the then-current PDF version 1.7. With this, PDF became an open standard. PDF 2.0 is expected to be published in 2014.

PDF/VT

“PDF for Variable Data and Transactional Printing“ – since 2010
Used for variable data printing

PDF/VT is a standard based on PDF/X-4 and PDF/X-5, supporting variable data printing. It was published in August 2010. The abbreviation “VT” stands for “Variable data and transactional printing”. This includes invoices and personalised advertisements, for example.

PDF/UA

“PDF for Universal Access“ – since 2012
ISO standard for universally accessible PDF documents

The PDF/UA (Universal Access) standard, approved in 2012, allows universal access to PDF files’ content. This is useful for users with disabilities (for example the partially sighted) and others. Of particular importance is a clear coherent logical structure of the PDF’s elements, to ensure that navigational aids, reading software or Braille displays can handle all content including text, images and diagrams.

PDF/UA builds on proven concepts for accessible web content and adds concrete demands on the semantic structure of PDF documents (which PDF/A Conformance Level A had previously only given in a very general sense). PDF/UA offers users with disabilities the best possible access to content. It also makes it easier for mobile devices to use this content and supports its flexible reuse in other forms of presentation.

< previousoverviewnext >

About Alexandra Oettler

Alexandra Oettler ist (Co-) Autorin der Bücher PDF/A kompakt und PDF/A kompakt 2.0.

Leave a Reply