So what is PDF/A? I was recently assured by someone that the PDF/A format was a competitor to PDF which had been unleashed on the world by a group of people who object to Adobe's ownership of the PDF format. This couldn't be further from the truth. The PDF format is quite open, and certainly complex. The PDF 1.4 specification runs to nearly 1,000 pages -- and people think the TIFF specification is complicated! Therefore, there have been a number of groups who have attempted to come up with simplified subsets of the format for specific purposes.
The first example of this that I have been aware of is PDF/X. PDF/X is PDF optimised for the pre-press and printing industry. I'll leave the description at that, and refer you to the PDF X FAQ.
PDF/A is similar, except it is a PDF subset which is optimised for document archival and the associated storage of document metadata. This is core business for my employer, so I am currently boning up on the subject. Similarly to PDF/X, PDF/A is a ISO standard, but this time has a bunch of EDMS / RM / DM / ECM vendors, AIIM, and the US government on board.
Both PDF/X and PDF/A exist with Adobe's support. You can read more about PDF/A at the AIIM site, which includes a draft of the ISO specification.
So, it's a standard format, which is a subset of PDF. You can expect to see more on the topic from me as I continue reading up on the topic.
Tags for this post: pdf pdf-a pdf-x iso standard document management archival format
Related posts: PDF/A sample documents?; Expect to see some sample documents soon; Updated pdfdb; Open Source document management from Alfresco; Time to document my PDF testing database; Why document management is good
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