PDF/A Standard - Long Term Archiving Solutions

The growing requirement by Governments and corporations for long term archiving of digital documents has seen an exponential rise in the adoption of the PDF/A standard.

Take a moment to find out what the PDF/A standard is and how it can improve your current archiving solution.

What is PDF/A?
Can I use PDF and not PDF/A for archiving?
What are the advantages of PDF/A?
Who is using the PDF/A Standard?
How can BFOs Java PDF Library help with long term archiving?

What is PDF/A?

In 2005 the PDF/A standard was released by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for the digital preservation and long term archiving of electronic documents.

Depending on your archiving requirements the PDF/A standard is split into two levels of compliance or conformity:

PDF/A-1a - requires documents to be reproduced so that content structure remains correct and can be searched, text can be mapped in Unicode and the document must be without visual ambiguity.

PDF/A-1b - only requires reproduction of documents without visual ambiguity.

Can I use PDF and not PDF/A for archiving?

A standard PDF contains different elements such as text, images, and fonts which are suitable for archiving documents. They also maintain visual integrity and reproduce layouts that are true to the original. Elements such as PDF Layers however must be excluded from the PDF/A standard for future validation purposes. Additionally the user must be able to access all elements of the document such as embedded fonts, which are not availiable in standard PDF documents.

What are the advantages of PDF/A?

Apart from the obvious convenience of not having to store physical documents for 10, 50 and sometimes 100 years, digital archiving using the PDF/A standard has a number of benefits.

Ability to Search Documents - Unlike TIFF, which requires optical text recognition (OCR) software for searching, PDF/A allows the user to perform search queries through the entire archive without the need for such software.

Digital Signatures - PDF/A -1 allows for the embedding of digital signatures in archived PDF documents. Adding a digital signature is considered an incremental update and is added at the end of the file. Both the PDF and digital signature must be PDF/A compliant.

File Compression - In comparison to an equivalent TIFF file compression for PDFs is smaller and in most cases the quality is better.

Inclusion of Metadata - Descriptive information such author, date created, keywords and publisher can be embedded and amemded in the PDF document.

Who is using the PDF/A Standard?

Governmental institutions were the earliest adopters of the PDF/A standard ( primarily in Europe) however the following industries are also moving to PDF/A.
  • Legal
  • Printing & Publishing
  • Architecture & Engineering
  • Libraries & Archives

How can BFOs PDF Library help with long term archiving?

You can create PDF/A documents with BFO's PDF Library Extended + PDF Viewer. For more information go to Creating PDF/A documents with the BFO library or get in touch at support@bfo.com.