Why CIOs should care about PDF/A

PDF Association staff // October 10, 2014


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Stopwatch and dollar bills.

As a means of distributing electronic documents, PDF was an established technology back when Netscape Navigator was the world’s most popular web browser.

Think about that.

While PDF has changed considerably since those days, most user's perceptions of PDF have not. PDF was the best way to share page-based content back in 1994, and that’s the way most people think of PDF today. Few ask themselves: "what else can PDF do?". And in particular, how can PDF/A compliant workflows reduce risks and enhance handling of electronic documents?

There are several good reasons why CIOs should care about PDF/A.

PDF/A reduces risks

The PDF format is commonly used to retain important documents. Unfortunately, while the format itself is generally extremely reliable, not all PDF software does a good job when creating or editing PDF files. Older software may damage PDF/A files, and even with the best software, other mistakes can be made, such as failing to embed fonts.

Anyone who has opened a PDF file only to see rows of little boxes instead of text knows the sinking feeling that comes from a “bad PDF”.

Integrated into an electronic document workflow, PDF/A eliminates these uncertainties, ensuring that vital business and government records include all necessary resources to be “future-proof” - viewable into the indefinite future.

PDF/A helps satisfy regulatory requirements

Use of PDF/A for documentation and records in regulated industries demonstrates a commitment to preserving tax, HR, contractual and other records consistent with HIPPA, Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC and other legal retention requirements.

PDF/A is ideally suited for digital signatures

The archival subset of PDF allows embedded electronic signatures, specifying only their minimum requirements. As such, PDF/A documents can be signed using the most current digital signature technology, ideal for process automation.

PDF/A provides comprehensive support for all sorts of writing systems

Text in PDF/A files is always displayed correctly on any device irrespective of language, text direction or font. For documents including Japanese, Cyrillic or other writing systems PDF/A provides assurance of legibility. When allied with PDF/UA (for universal accessibility), PDF/A files are what the Library of Congress considers a "...preferred format for page-oriented content".

PDF/A is cross-platform technology

Cloud computing and mobile devices offer new challenges and opportunities for document authoring, delivery and display. PDF/A, however, is 100% reliable regardless of operating system or device, now or in the future.

Download the PDF Association’s PDF/A in a Nutshell, a free publication, to lean more about the archival subset of PDF.


PDF Association staff

The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering the information, services and value members have come to expect. Staff members of the PDF Association include: Alexandra Oettler (Editor), Betsy Fanning (Standards Director), Duff Johnson (Chief Executive Officer), Matthias Wagner (Operations Director), Peter Wyatt (Chief Technology Officer), Thomas Zellmann (PDF Evangelist).  


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PDF Association staff

The staff of the PDF Association are dedicated to delivering the information, services and value members have come to expect. Staff …