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PDF Association

Mission Statement: To promote Open Standards-based electronic document implementations using PDF technology through education, expertise and shared experience for stakeholders worldwide.
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The only digital document format

Margaret Hamilton led a team credited with developing the software for NASA’s Apollo and Skylab. Her  team was responsible for developing in-flight software, which included algorithms designed by various senior scientists for the Apollo command module …

Save the Date: PDF Days Europe 2018, May 14-16, in Berlin

PDF Days Europe is the most popular PDF event of the year. It’s where the PDF industry meets, and where institutional and corporate users come to learn what else PDF could do for them. The first two PDF Days will offer a broad range of educational sessions focussed on current and perennial topics in the world of PDF technology implementation.

The Power of the Page

It’s a question that vexes vendors of web-based solutions everywhere: why do people still insist on PDF files? And why does PDF’s mindshare keep going up? “PDF is such antediluvian technology!” they say. “It’s pre-web, are you kidding me? It’s so old-f …

PDF Association technical resources: an overview

PDF is PDF because files produced with one vendor’s software can be read using a different vendor’s software with no loss of fidelity. Interoperability is key to our industry. The PDF Association is a international membership organization dedicated to …

2022: The last year of paper for records-keeping

NARA (The National Archives and Records Administration) is the final depository for the long-term records generated by all other agencies of the U.S. Federal Government. The agency has a key role in preserving the cultural history of the republic as we …

PDF/A – the ISO standard for long-term archiving


Up to the end of the 20th century, physical media formats (paper, microfilms and microfiches) were the only option for businesses and public authorities storing documents for the long term in a reproducible format. The major drawback to these analogue approaches was the significant time and effort required: documents are hard to search through, trained personnel are required, specialist equipment is needed to read microfilms, and entire climate-controlled rooms are needed to store documents.

The first digital archiving format to gain ground in many countries was the TIFF image format. In 1993, however, a modern, more powerful format became available in the form of PDF. This became the basis on which the standard archive format PDF/A was developed.

For companies, public authorities and private users needing to store digital information for a long period of time – be it 5 years, 50 or 500 – the PDF/A standard is now the clear choice of file format.

PDF/A is a multi-part ISO standard developed over many years of committee work by industry associations, businesses and public authorities around the world. The result is “a file format based on PDF, known as PDF/A, which provides a mechanism for representing electronic documents in a manner that preserves their visual appearance over time, independent of the tools and systems used for creating, storing or rendering the files.” (ISO 19005-1, quoted from the introduction).

ISO Logo
The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the largest organisation in the world for developing and publishing international standards.

The first part of the standard, PDF/A-1, has been available since the 1st of October 2005. Its official designation is “ISO 19005-1:2005. Document management – Electronic document file format for long-term preservation – Part 1: Use of PDF 1.4 (PDF/A-1)”.

Since then, two further parts have been made available to users: PDF/A-2 (since 2011) and PDF/A-3 (since 2012). These parts exist in parallel and are optimised to meet particular needs.
The PDF/A standards family regulates how to create electronic documents to ensure they can be reliably reproduced for decades to come. The standard does not describe how to build a revision-safe archive, nor the theory behind one.

The decisive advantages of PDF/A

  • A PDF/A file contains everything needed to display it and nothing which could negatively impact the display.
  • PDF/A files can be used on any platform.
  • Free programs exist for displaying PDF/A files.
  • The multi-part PDF/A standard offers great flexibility to users.

Widespread acceptance of PDF/A

PDF/A is becoming more and more common, be it in industry, public administration, financial services or academia. A large number of authorities and institutions worldwide recommend PDF/A or specifically require the use of the standard

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Tags: ISO
Categories: PDF, PDF/A