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About the contributor
Thomas Zellmann

More contributions
“PDF can do THAT?!”

PDF files deliver a complete package of information that defines a document; everything that’s needed to represent the text, graphics and layout that the recipient receives. To most people, PDF is “electronic paper” – the digital expression of a cellul …

The only digital document format

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

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The Power of the Page

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PDF Association technical resources: an overview

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Session Intro – Track 1: What You Need to Know About PDF/A


The articles in this chapter contain the conference presentations from Track 1: What you need to know about PDF/A, for novice to intermediate level users.

Track 1 covers the basics of PDF/A and, after reading, you should have a fairly good overview of the format. More detailed information about PDF/A can be found in the subsequent chapters, or also in the PDF/A Competence Center’s “bible”: “PDF/A in a Nutshell”. The book is a very good follow-up to the lectures and is available in German and French, with additional languages in the works.

Three interesting articles are included in this chapter, beginning with PDF/A 101 by Stephen Poe of Crawford Technologies Inc., Canada. 101 is a very American – sorry, “Canadian” title and it talks about the archiving requirements which led to the standardisation of PDF/A. The history of the standardisation is covered with an outlook to the upcoming PDF/A-2 extension of the standard. The article also describes the do’s and don’ts which a PDF/A file must obey.

To demonstrate that PDF/A is a standard based on practical experience from users, and not just on academic theory, I like to cite an example from Airbus. Airbus has to store the engineering documents of their aircraft for 99 years. Before the PDF/A standard, they had an internal working group which found that PDF is a good and modern format, but has too many features which may endanger long-term archiving. Therefore, they defined a so-called “minimal PDF”, and this is exactly the bottom line of PDF/A! And obviously, Airbus is large PDF/A user today.

When I describe PDF/A in a three minute talk, I like to say that, quite simply put, PDF/A is just a subset of PDF that ensures long-term readability and through it, every PDF becomes a good PDF.

After the introduction and description of PDF/A by Stephen Poe, two articles follow which cover the two major sources of original documents.

“PDF/A for Scanned Documents” by Carsten Heiermann of LuraTech talks about documents that began as a piece of paper. The scanning of documents has been carried out for a long time already and Carsten compares the older electronic formats with PDF/A. He describes the new and modern features which PDF/A allows for in scanned documents like high compression, metadata, colour scanning and full-text OCR.

The second group of documents are the so-called “Digital Born Documents”. Dr. Hans Bärfuss from PDF Tools AG, Switzerland, describes the possible sources of digital documents and the options to convert these into PDF/A. He also discusses the different use-cases like e-mail archiving, and how PDF/A can help in such an application.

The ‘world picture’ of the PDF/A Competence Center provides a good summary for this introduction.
The ‘world picture’ of the PDF/A Competence Center provides a good summary for this introduction.

I would like to thank the authors for their excellent contribution of articles, and hope the chapter makes a worthwhile reading for you!


Tags: 3rd International PDF/A Conference, Proceedings
Categories: Architecture, Engineering & Construction, Archives & Libraries, PDF/A