The Growing Importance of PDF/A Compliant Documents

By Paul Dyck, April-14-10 | Permalink

The PDF/A standard (or, PDF-eh? as we say in Canada) for long-time archiving of documents has been adopted by government agencies across the United States and Europe. That’s great news for us, since Adlib Express and PDF for SharePoint effectively and reliably handle the conversion of documents to PDF/A.

For example, Denmark recently mandated the use of open standard document formats, including the use of PDF/A for storing non-editable documents. As an ISO standard, PDF/A provides freedom from proprietary formats and software, and freedom from dependency on a particular vendor for long-term support.

As well, the National Archive and Records Administration (NARA) which is responsible for archiving documents and materials created by the US government, accepts permanent electronic records submitted to them in PDF and PDF/A format.

The National Library of Congress is another example of a US government agency that takes advantage of the long-term storage capabilities of PDF/A.


Freedom of Information

One US Government agency that Adlib spoke with recently wants to convert all files related to their projects in PDF/A format, so that it would be more efficient for them to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests.  In the past, requests for information had to be handled more than once if the person asking for it was not able to read the file format, making it more time consuming and therefore more expensive for the agency. This agency also required the information to be accessible for many years in the event that there was a litigation related to that project.

Applying for a Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office receives electronic patent application documents in PDF format via their web-based patent application and documents submission solution – EFS-WEB. However, they have their own specifications for PDF files that must be met if you want them to protect your idea.  Their guidelines are based on the PDF/A specification, so if your files are PDF/A compliant, they will also be acceptable by their EFS-Web system.

These are only a few examples of how the PDF/A format is being adopted by organizations concerned with accessibility and long-term storage of valuable information.