PDF/A-2: The Standards, they are a-Changin’

December 16, 2010

2 minute read

Things may change slowly in the PDF standards world… but they do change.

For example, two weeks ago, the international committee for ISO 19005 met (in Canada’s capital) and ratified PDF/A- 2.

The original PDF/A-1 standard, published in 2005, was developed to insure that digital documents that are archived for possible future use can be accessed when needed. PDF/A-1 is based on a version that existed before PDF was published as an open standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2008.

PDF/A-2 is based on the open standard, allowing it take advantage of new PDF features that make documents more usable while still being appropriate for long term archiving. Those new features include:

  • Transparency - Transparent objects are now allowed in PDF/A-2. Transparency can be used to improve the appearance of PDF documents or to highlight content
  • JPEG 2000 Image Compression –  JPEG2000 offers server advantages such as both lossless and lossy compression for high quality and improved compression performance. This format was not available until after PDF/A-1 was published.
  • OpenType Fonts - OpenType fonts can now be embedded without having to convert them into PostScript Type 1 or TrueType.
  • Layers – Layers, also known as “optional content” in PDF syntax are now allowed in PDF/A-2. Layers are essential for selectively viewing different aspects of complex CAD files. They are also used for including multiple languages in the same PDF file, allowing users to display.
  • Enhanced Annotation Support – PDF/A-2 supports several new annotation types. Comments and mark-ups added to PDF files using supported annotations can now be included in archived files.

Don’t Worry, your Archives are Still Valid!

Existing PDF/A-1 files will continue to be valid under the new standard. Running them through a PDF/A conversion that is PDF/A-2 compliant won’t change anything because any features allowed under the PDF/A-2 specification would have already been removed to make them valid PDF/A-1 files.

What’s Next

Now that the ISO PDF standards committee has ratified the new standard, it goes to the ISO organization for final publishing. We at Adlib are currently reviewing the new PDF/A-2 standard for incorporation in a future release of our software.

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