PDF/A File Conversion and Viewers

PDF/A - a New Standard for Long-term Document Archiving*

Document archiving formats vary widely from country to country, and while traditional hard-copy archiving methods guarantee documentation preservation, they are outdated in the digital age as large documents cannot be quickly distributed, and it is a painful task to search paper documents for specific content. As a first step towards electronic document archiving, many organizations implemented TIFF archives – ensuring long-term viability, an established document structure, and an easy to transmit format – but one that is not easily searchable. (TIFF is a raster format and must first be scanned with an OCR engine (optical character recognition) before it can be searched.) In order to streamline the process, developers began looking for a portable yet easily searchable format, and Portable Document Format or PDF was created by Adobe Systems.

PDF is a more suitable archiving format than TIFF for a variety of reasons: PDF files are more compact and therefore require only a fraction of the memory space of respective TIFF files, often with better quality. The smaller file size is especially advantageous for electronic file transfer (FTP, e-mail attachment etc.), and the PDF file format stores structured objects (e.g. text, vector graphics, raster images), and allows for efficient full-text search. Plus, metadata like title, author, creation date, modification date, subject, and keywords can be embedded in a PDF file, enhancing archiving and retrieval.

Adobe has released several versions of their PDF application over the years; each has enriched the format with new features. However, as global requirements grew for reliable electronic archiving, Adobe defined a stable derivative of the PDF format, based on their proprietary specification that could be internationally accepted as a Standard for long-term electronic archiving. Thus, PDF/A was created, providing a mechanism for representing electronic documents in a manner that preserves their visual appearance over time, independent of the tools and systems used for creating, storing or rendering the files.

It is anticipated that PDF/A will become the new electronic document archiving standard and incorporates several new amendments into the required structure to this end: the implementation of embedded fonts, and the exclusion of transparency, sound and movie actions are two examples of this, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the “preservation of a document’s logical structure and content text stream in natural reading order.”*

Snowbound Software’s products offer powerful, flexible support for PDF/A documents tailored to your development and business needs:

Additional Resources for the PDF/A File Format

*The PDF/A Competence Center was used as a resource for the information above

PDF/A - The Development of a Digital Preservation Standard A PowerPoint presentation from The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), the global ECM community that provides education, research, and best practices to help organizations find, control, and optimize information.

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Important: Avoid surprises and delays. Snowbound Software recommends that, as part of your evaluation process, you test your own sample documents against our products. Though we've been in the document business for almost 20 years, modifications to document formats occur from time to time. Often they don't conform to specifications, but you may find it important to work with them. Snowbound, unlike most of our competitors, develops it own technology. If in the rare case you come across a problem or non-conforming document or image, we can often quickly fix it.

Learn more about Snowbound Software's solutions for check imaging, image conversion and batch file conversion.