What is a PDF/A
We’ve all heard of it and many have used it – some use it quite often. A few courts even require it as a filing format. I’m talking about PDF/A of course.
PDF/A is one of the oldest PDF-ISO standards – it was created in 2005 as ISO 19005-1:2005 and precedes ISO 32000 which is the PDF standard written more recently to define the overall PDF format as a standard. PDF/A is quite simply a format for long term archiving - hence the appendage of “A”.
PDF/A is intended to assure that a PDF created today – can be easily opened and read again 10, 20, or 50 years from now. To make this possible, PDF/A prohibits use of PDF features that could potentially restrict access in the future so features like encryption and password protection are not allowed. And PDF/A files must be entirely self-contained so they tend to be larger that standard PDFs.
PDF/A is unsuitable for many day-to-day uses because of its lack of security and generally larger size of file - but it’s a vital format for long-term storage and retrieval. Creating a PDF in PDF/A format should be clearly defined in your PDF application (you’ll know if you have this capability) and it should be simple to do. Your records manager will typically define when to use PDF/A internally – and agencies and courts will be very clear about using this format when required.