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PDF/A Competence Center Newsletter: Issue 15

Table of Contents

Current News: AIIM EXPO in Philadelphia
Main Article: PDF/A and Interactive Forms – an Introduction
PDF/A Competence Center Members Introduce Themselves: FileAffairs GmbH
New Members






Maruan Sahyoun, FileAffairs

Dear Readers,

Ever since the ISO defined PDF/A format for long-term archiving in 2005, use of the format has been constantly growing. When the upcoming version (PDF/A-2) is released, several new features will be added which were not even foreseen in the initial version, raising new questions about the format. The increasing demand has also led to PDF/A being used in areas of application which had not been originally considered when the format was being defined. For this reason, we will use this edition of the newsletter to look at how PDF/A and forms can be used together.

I hope you enjoy the articles.

Maruan Sahyoun,
FileAffairs GmbH


AIIM EXPO in Philadelphia

This year’s AIIM International Exposition & Conference will take place from April 20th to 22nd in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia PA. Several PDF/A Competence Center members will be taking part in the exhibition again this year, including Appligent Document Solutions, Compart Inc., Datalogics and LuraTech Inc.

You can learn about PDF/A from any one of the Competence Center exhibitors, and also meet with our association chairman, Harald Grumer. Thomas Zellmann and several more contact persons from the PDF/A Competence Center will also be on hand and are looking forward to meeting you.

A special PDF/A meeting has been organized for April 21st at 6:00 pm, and is open to all persons interested in PDF/A.


PDF/A and Interactive Forms – an Introduction
by Maruan Sahyoun, FileAffairs GmbH

Forms are a fundamental characteristic of PDF and were introduced into the PDF lexicon at a very early stage, namely in PDF 1.2. The PDF/A standard also recognizes forms. But, for what types of forms is PDF/A actually suitable? Don’t forget that PDF/A was designed to be an archiving format. Forms have found their way into the standard because in practice data is stored together with a (PDF/A) form template. The form defines the position and layout of the data. Is however PDF/A suitable for interactive forms? The answer to this question is a simple No. This is due to the fact that interactive forms require logic – to format the entered data, to conduct calculations, to validate data, to lock fields and release them again and much more.

So how can interactive PDF forms and PDF/A work together?

In practice it is relevant that interactive forms, once they have been “closed”, i.e. do not require any more inputs, are transferred to PDF/A format for archiving. This can – depending on what status the form is in – be associated with varying amounts of effort. Here are a couple of examples:

Case 1: The form itself is PDF/A conforming, however the form’s logic deviates from the standard in that it contains JavaScript. A suitable software could be used in this case to remove the JavaScript before the form is delivered to the archive. Attention must be paid to the fact that this can affect how the data is displayed – for example the date format – depending on when the code is executed. Some PDF/A converters can deal with this similar to special PDF readers.

Case 2: The form itself does not conform to the PDF/A standard, however we are dealing with a static form. In this case a suitable software can “repair” the non-conforming elements as well as remove the JavaScript code. Several PDF/A converters can also perform this task.

Case 3: In this case we are dealing with a dynamic PDF form which has been created using the Adobe LifeCycle Designer. Here we must be aware that although at first glance it appears to be a PDF file, the actual form is represented by an object embedded within a PDF file, and is not defined by the PDF lexicon but rather through the XFA specification. A direct conversion to PDF/A is not possible. It is necessary to render the form into PDF/A format, for example with the help of Adobe’s LifeCycle ES2 Output.

An additional difficulty will arise in cases where data entry in an interactive form includes digitally signing the form. Subsequent changes or “corrections” to the form in order to make it PDF/A conforming will invalidate the digital signature.

How then would you define a suitable process? A process that uses interactive PDF forms and requires PDF/A format for archiving would have the following characteristics:

Data entry through an interactive PDF form
Rendering of the form and the data entered in it into a “flat” PDF/A conforming document
Optional digital signing of the document
Archiving in an appropriate system.

We would be happy to assist should you have any questions concerning practical examples, lessons learned through experience and choice of software.
FileAffairs GmbH

For over 10 years now, we have been dealing in documents, their roll in businesses and how they are handled in the information technology world. A passion evolved out of establishing documents as an ideal medium of communication between people, comprehending documents as a carrier of information, and understanding documents as an intermediary between people, processes and systems. This passion led to the founding of FileAffairs.

The traceability of document states in a process, and over long periods of time, is an integral part of basic legal and organizational requirements. FileAffairs helps businesses understand what advantages PDF/A can bring in this context, how the introduction of the format can be achieved, which technologies are necessary for it and how existing documents, regardless of whether they are in paper or electronic format, can be migrated.

More information can be found in the internet: www.fileaffairs.de


We welcome the following companies as members in the PDF/A Competence Center:
Krill S.r.l., Italy
Debenu Pty Ltd., Australia
HKK Consulting, Germany

Tags: interactive forms
Categories: Forms, PDF/A