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NewFormat AB

Standards make the world work

NewFormat makes digital information permanently
accessible, searchable, readable and reusable
for the future and for as many people as possible

We leave no file behind

Open standards
ensures that your digital data and information is
available and accessible in the future for as many as possible
when today's IT technology, IT products and IT vendors
are no longer

Open Standards ensures that your information is available and accessible in the future for as many as possible, when today's IT technology, IT products and IT vendors are no longer - Picture

Adobe co-founder Chuck Geschke once observed
that your organization’s documents are more important
than the software used to create them, and they need to
outlive the computer platform on which they were generated.

Thanks to PDF, they can

Branschkoll - Logo
Branschkoll, Branschkollspodden nr50/2023 on Accessible PDF, Photo: Kent Åberg, Managing Director, NewFormat AB, with flyers on PDF Standards from PDF Association - Picture

Branschkoll Pod (48:32 minutes), November 22, 2023

Pod (in Swedish) about

Open Document Formats, PDF and ODF,

and specifically

Accessible PDF according to
the ISO Standard ISO14289 (a.k.a. as PDF/UA)

with Ola Karlsson (Branschkoll) and Kent Åberg (NewFormat)

This pod can also be downloaded for listening from:


Apple Podcasts

ISO logo

ISO Standards

    Why do ISO standards matter?

    An open, democratically-managed standard
    eliminates vendor control and lock-in,
    ensuring an equal playing-field and
    a healthy ecosystem of developers
    providing support to end users.

    ISO standardized technology is completely open and royalty-free;
    anyone can use the specification to develop PDF software.

    The Making of an ISO Standard - Developing ISO Standards

    When an international standard is created
    it generally goes through the following stages:

    • NWI: New Work Item

    • WD: Working Draft

    • CD: Committee Draft

    • DIS: Draft International Standard

    • FDIS: Final Draft International Standard

    The work document is progressively refined in each stage.
    At least one ballot is required in order to move from one stage to the next.
    For most, but not for all stages, several rounds with ballots may take place,
    for example, to address certain strategic questions.

    Additional rules apply that are particular to their respective stages,
    e.g. some stages have a maximum duration.

    This video provides an overview about the various types of publications
    ISO produces and the development process for each:

    Here you can find an overview about all ISO committees working on PDF,
    "their" specifications and the corresponding PDF Association working groups:

OpenDocument Format (ODF)


Portable Document Format (PDF)


ISO Standards

ODF logo     PDF logo

Document formats making
digital information accessible for everyone

(Click on ODF / PDF icon for the standard that interests you the most)

Business value comes from
always accessible enterprise information

Protect your values in future-proof
open document formats

Why Open Standards Matter

    An open document standard is characterized by
    (at least) the following characteristics:

    • Developed, maintained and controlled by
      an open standards organization.
    • An organization whose development and control methodology
      is well defined, interaction-oriented, democratic and inclusive.

    • Published without any restrictions or requirements for royalties

    • Freely available to be applied and implemented by anyone

    • Fully implementerad

    • Available reference implementations
    • Reference implementations available from multiple independent providers
      and on several different platforms (computer systems) without requiring
      any regard to intellectual property rights (Intellectual Property / IP) to
      the technologies required to undertake the implementation.

    Benefits of Open Standards:

    • Ownership over Their own Information
    • Document's content/information is accessible, readable,
      editable and storable to the user regardless of vendor
      technology/computer platform and application
      that was used when it was created and saved/stored.

      The information thus belongs to the user and no longer to
      the provider of the office document solution/software.

    • Access to Information
    • An open standard based on an open specification ensures that
      users always (on ​​your own or through external assistance)
      has access to the document's information.

    • Interoperability
    • The content/information can be processed without
      the limitations of other applications in other environments.

    • Competition
    • Increased vendor competition due to open standards enables
      many suppliers to offer solutions with different features and
      different prices.

    • Freedom of Choice
    • Increased ability to select the solution and vendor
      that best fits their organization's performance.

    • Lower Costs
    • Open and free competition between suppliers of applications using
      the open standard in their products and solutions means the user
      may not be forced to accept a certain supplier bid/application to
      access user's own information.

    • Innovation
    • The open standard is a base/platform that all
      businesses and suppliers can use to develop and
      deploy new applications and services.

    • Preservation of Cultural Heritage
    • Enables and ensures that important information is
      available, accessible and readable long into
      the future and for future generations.

    Vendor specific document formats
    do not allow above advantages!

    Neelie Kroes,
    European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda,
    at OpenForum Europe 2010, June 6, 2010:

Regulations demanding open document standards
in public sector are coming everywhere

    Democracy is threatened by closed and proprietary document formats!
    Democratic countries consider their sovereignty and democratic rights are
    threatened by closed and proprietary document formats and therefore take action:

      To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information,
      it is indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider.

      The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of
      this free access, if necessary through the creation of
      compatible free software".

      The Register article, 2002:

      The Peruvian government is considering a bill mandating
      open-source software for all public bureaux.
      As a response Microsoft circulated a FUD communiqué calculated
      to frighten world, collapsing domestic software markets,
      spiraling costs and systems migration nightmares.
      Peruvian Congressman David Villanueva Nuñez
      slices and dices with great skill to reveal
      the internal inconsistencies, unsupportable claims and
      irrational conclusions made by Microsoft:

    Enterprise information is far too valuable to be locked-in in proprietary
    document formats completely owned and controlled by ICT vendors.

    Open document formats, ODF & PDF, are now under worldwide deployment
    for use in office suite solutions and enterprise systems,...
    in the public sector and in the private industry.

    Open document formats also ensure successful deployments of
    long-term archiving and preservation solutions.

This i OpenDocument Format (ODF)

ODF logo

OpenDocument Format (ODF) is ISO Standard since 2006

The importance of switching to OpenDocument Format (ODF)!

Source: Infographics by OpenForum Europe

Open Forum Europe Infographics on the Importance to Switch to Open Document Format (ODF) - Picture

Click on picture

ISO Standards based on ODF Technology - File Extensions - Details

ODF Text logo ODF Text Template logo ODF Text logo ODF Text Template logo ODF Text logo ODF Text Template logo
.odt .ott .ods .ots .odp .otp
ODF Text logo ODF Text Template logo ODF Text logo ODF Text Template logo ODF Text logo Text HTML  Text
.odg .otg .odb .odf .odm .oth

OpenDocument Format (ODF) File Extensions - Details

Software tools supporting OpenDocument Format (ODF)

This is Portable Document Format (PDF)

PDF logo

We help you learn and navigate
the wonderful world of PDF standards

A thorough understanding of PDF specifications and PDF standards
can enable you to exploit this versatile file format to its maximum potential.

By learning here about the evolution of PDF standards and
how they compare to other file formats,
you can better understand how to use PDFs to your advantage.

PDF logo

Portable Document Format (PDF) is ISO Standard since 2008

    • Portable Document Format (PDF) on Wikipedia

    • PDF was first developed by Adobe Systems back in 1991-1994.
      Since then most people closely identify PDF with Adobe Systems.

    • But the PDF technology is not owned by Adobe Systems any longer.

    • In 2008 Adobe Systems gave the PDF Reference Specification to
      the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

    • ISO formally approved the PDF Reference 1.7 Specification
      as the ISO 32000-1 Standard.

    • Adobe Systems formal statements on the release of patents
      associated with PDF/32000-1:

      • Adobe Systems granting of rights to use the components of
        the ISO 32000-1 standard, in terms of the rights granted
        from an authoring and a consumption standpoint.

      • Adobe grants every individual and organization in the world
        the royalty-free right, to use the portion of an application,
        product, or service that reads, writes modifies or processes
        computer files compliant with the 32000-1 Specification:

    • PDF is since 2008 further developed by the PDF Association
      in collaboration with ISO in a completely open specification
      rather than as a proprietary implementation.

    • The latest edition, ISO 32000-2:2020, also know as PDF 2.0,
      was approved and published in December 2020.
    • The specification for ISO 32000-2 (PDF 2.0) is now available for
      download at no cost from PDF Association.

      Important to know!

      • ISO now holds the copyright to the PDF specification.
        ISO 32000-2 is an ISO-copyright document.

      • ISO 32000-2:2020 does not include any proprietary
        technologies as normative references!
        Thus no company or business asserted IP with respect to ISO 32000-2.

      • ISO 32000-2: Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy:

      • A published document for which no patent rights are
        identified during the preparation thereof shall contain
        this notice in the Foreword:

        • ISO 32000-2 / ISO IPR Policy:

        • "Attention is drawn to the possibility that some of the elements of
          this document may be the subject of patent rights.
          ISO shall not be held responsible for identifying any or all such patent rights."

      • PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 is completely disconnected from Adobe;
        Thus, Adobe does not own any IP or license rights for PDF 2.0.

      • PDF 2.0 (a.k.a. "post-Adobe PDF") is the basis for
        the new generation of PDF standards.

      • PDF 2.0 spawns a set of updated subset standards designed to leverage
        the first "post-Adobe PDF" in the next-generation of archival, accessibility,
        engineering, raster image and other specifications based on PDF 2.0.

Source: PDF Association, Overview: PDF Standards & Specifications (2022) - Picture

Source: PDF Association
Overview: PDF Standards & Specifications (2022)

    • Adobe Systems renews its support for PDF and PDF Association.
    • As part of its ongoing commitment to the development and
      adoption of ISO-standardized PDF technology, Adobe Systems,
      Partner member of the PDF Association, has renewed its support:

    • While Adobe still makes the most commonly-recognised PDF software,
      Adobe is now just one of many global industry players sending
      representatives to ISO 32000 meetings to discuss and further develop
      the next-generation PDF specification and the various subset standards for PDF:
Source: PDF Association, The PDF Community: PDF Players - Picture

Source: PDF Association
The Global PDF Community / PDF Players

(A selection of leading PDF solutions from
industry members of the PDF Association
can be ordered from NewFormat AB)

    • PDF 2.0 - Conclusion:
    • No vendor, Adobe or any other vendor, or business
      has its own technical interpretive precedence when introducing support for
      ISO standards based on PDF technology in their products and services;
      nor can they refer to their own proprietary techniques
      as normative PDF references.

      The supplier that best meets and most innovatively implements
      support for current ISO standards based on PDF technology
      is given the opportunity for significant competitive advantages.

      Thus, all regular end-users of PDF, today and in the future,
      have a much larger range of innovative products and services
      to choose from that

      • meets current ISO standards based on PDF technology,

      • are offered at the most favorable (globally competitive) terms.

PDF Association - Logo

PDF Association
"The Meeting-Place of the Global PDF Industry"

Portable Document Format (PDF)
is the world’s chosen final-form digital document format.

    Founded in 2006 the PDF Association promotes understanding, adoption and
    implementation of International Standards for PDF-based technology.

    Ever since Adobe transferred the PDF technology for ISO standardization
    PDF is further developed in a completely open specification rather
    than as a proprietary implementation.

    The PDF Association is a global industry initiative for developers of PDF solutions;
    companies that work with PDF in document management systems (DMS) and
    digital content management systems (ECM), interested individuals, and
    users who want to implement PDF technology in their organizations.

    As the leading industry and technical body for the PDF industry,
    the PDF Association knows more about PDF and what PDF can deliver
    than anyone else.

    The PDF Association uniquely influences the future of smart standards:

    The standardization of PDF is a joint effort between PDF Association and ISO:

    "ISO: International Standards offer practical solutions we all can stand behind.
    By using international standards, you become a part of the solution":

    The PDF Association supports the Theme of World Standards Day 2021:

PDF Association - Logo

Mission Statement:

"Delivering a vendor-neutral platform for developing
open specifications and standards for PDF technology"

PDF Association Member - Logo

Participate in the continued development of the PDF technology

PDF Association, Membership and Benefits

PDF Association - Logo

PDF Industry Events & Calendar

PDF Association - Logo

PDF Association helping government and businesses to understand
the Portable Document Format (PDF)

From recommendations to regulations,
PDF Association is here to help.

    The PDF Association engages in many activities as it
    follows its mission of promoting the adoption of
    ISO standardized PDF technology around the world.

    PDF technology is a pervasive feature of the world's
    communications infrastructure.
    With a unique and unmatched feature-set;
    no other technology comes close.

    We're not going back to paper, so it's long past time for
    governments and businesses to focus just a little on
    this ubiquitous format that's never going away.

    PDF Association provide information and resources to
    government agencies and regulators to help them develop
    reference materials, guidelines, regulations and laws.

    The significance of PDF for Information Governance (IG)
    Better PDF = Better IG

    In 2010, Gartner defined Information Governance (IG) as:

      "the specification of decision rights and an accountability
      framework to encourage desirable behavior in the valuation,
      creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information.
      It includes the processes, roles, standards and metrics that
      ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling
      an organization to achieve its goals".

    Today PDF, and PDF/A in particular, plays a critical role as
    the standardized digital file format of choice for storing and
    managing large quantities of an organization’s information.

    The modern workplace of today is saturated with web technology.
    From end-user technology (websites, office applications,...)
    to enterprise-spanning systems to infrastructure and social media.

    The range of information inputs, flows, products and systems
    within organizations, large and small, continues to expand in
    both volume and diversity.
    The challenges for information producers, users, analysts,
    managers and retainers of information in all businesses
    continue to multiply.

    For organizations, some pretty fundamental questions
    are beginning to nag, such as:

    • "When does a web page become a record?"

    • "Does a screen-shot of a web-page constitute a record?"

    • "The website doesn’t look like that anymore!"

    PDF persists as the choice for formal documents.
    Accelerated commitments to web- and cloud-based technologies
    do not dampen the need for digital documents;
    paginated, deliverable content that works everywhere,
    whether on a local computer or in the cloud.

    PDF remains the medium of choice for formal documents,
    graphically-rich content, and any content destined for
    print or publishing.

    Indeed, PDF is really the ONLY choice;
    there’s simply no other general-purpose reliable
    digital document format, nor any challenger on the horizon.

    Think PDF, think big, and get more from PDF.
    Think about how much your organization relies on PDF
    for documents, contracts, invoices, presentations, receipts,
    reports, case files, archives and in many other roles.

    Ask yourself:

    • Are we creating the best PDFs we can to meet our IG goals?

    • How could we do better PDFs to guarantee reliability and authenticity,
      make content easier to find and reuse, as well as more accessible
      for users with disabilities, and more.

    The significance of PDF for Information Governance (IG):

    Initiative Linking Research and Industry.
    Open Invitation to Academic Research Institutions:


PDF Association - Logo

PDF Association Industry Working Groups

(earlier named "PDF Association Competence Centers")

Maintains and further develops PDF and PDF substandards

PDF Association, Icon/Overview of PDF- standards: PDF, PDF/X, PDF/A, PDF/UA, PDF 2.0, PDF/R, PDF/VT, 3D PDF, PDF/VCR - Picture

    The original PDF/A Competence Center was founded 2006 with
    the goal of establishing a common interpretation of ISO 19005.

    In 2011 the PDF/A Competence Center transfered to become
    the PDF Association overseeing all standards based on PDF technology,
    each with a dedicated Competence Center.

    Later on these Competence Centers have since then
    evolved into separate and even more focused:

    • Industry Working Groups (WGs):

      • technical functions (Technical Working Groups/TWGs)
      • Engaged with developing or maintaining technical specifications
        or guidance on the interpretation thereof.
        Open to all PDF Association members.

      • liaison functions (Liaison Working Groups/LWGs)
      • Limited to a specific task or the concerns of a vertical marketplace.
        LWGs are open to non-members such as end users who would not
        otherwise join the PDF Association.

      • marketing functions (Marketing Working Groups/MWGs)
      • Considers end-user awareness and education.
        Open to all PDF Association members.

    These working groups are "the workshops" where the actual executive work
    with a specific PDF standard or application area takes place.

    Industry Working Groups operate on the basis of interest without a specific remit.
    They have grown to include a variety of objectives, including:

    • Promoting exchange between developers focusing
      in various subdomains

    • Oversight and policies for industry-accepted validation software;
      such as veraPDF

    • Research and development of new PDF extensions and use cases

    • Development of industry standards, best practices,
      test suites and other aides to interoperability

    • Developing informational resources for PDF developers and users

PDF Association - Logo

PDF Association Technical Resources

    Glossaries for PDF

    Get to know the language, acronyms and terms of PDF.

    The PDF glossaries below help to make
    PDF Association's technical resources
    more understandable and navigable for
    the less technically experienced user
    as well as the knowledgeable developer.

    These glossaries describe commonly encountered
    acronyms and terms for PDF and PDF-based substandards
    (like PDF/UA for Accessible PDF, PDF/X for print, and
    PDF/A for archiving and long-term preservation)
    with easily understood lay-person definitions.

    Typical non-technical users, such as ordinary end-users,
    consumers, and business decision makers will benefit
    from these glossaries when encountering
    the more technical aspects of PDF,
    when communicating with PDF vendors and/or
    design/production/communication agencies,
    or when they need to understand ISO standards
    for various PDF-based technologies:

PDF Association - Logo

Free PDF Peer-Review Service

Initiative Linking Research and Industry

Open Invitation to Academic Research Institutions

PDF logo

    To assist both academic and industry researchers achieve
    high-quality and accurate PDF-oriented research outcomes,
    the PDF Association is now making available a new
    free peer-review service.

    This service will link acknowledged experts in the PDF file format with
    journal editors, academic publishers, conference steering committees and
    researchers to provide expert peer-review of pre-print/pre-publish articles,
    whitepapers and presentations in relation to statements made about
    PDF format and PDF technology.

    PDF technology per se is, of course, not an academic domain.
    Nonetheless, every year many universities and research organizations
    publish papers and present research work that focuses on the format
    from across a diverse range of domains that utilize PDF.

    Topics range from the more obvious software engineering,
    cyber-security, accessibility, data mining, archival studies,
    and document understanding to specialized areas of
    health informatics, medicine, and education.

    Most research publications are oriented towards making unique
    contributions within their primary domain, however in some cases,
    the research is weakened by a lack of PDF knowledge and expertise.
    This is understandable especially when the research is conducted
    by academics without own deep experience with PDF and are not
    PDF experts themselves.

    This can result in papers with shortcomings such as:

    • misunderstandings about PDF lexical rules, syntax and features;

    • referencing out-of-date PDF specifications;

    • relying on incorrect information from previously published work;

    • being unaware of specialized PDF publications;

    • use of old or incomplete implementations;

    • limitations in the design and selection of PDF-based corpora, and

    • confusion between PDF as a file format specification
      and behavior of specific implementations.

    As a consequence,
    conclusions and future areas for research are often weakened.
    But this is precisely where PDF experts, such as PDF Association members,
    can “cross pollinate” and assist researchers to create better and
    more relevant research outcomes for the benefit of everyone.

PDF logo

The Portable Document Format (PDF)

Overview and introduction to ISO Standards based on PDF Technology,
information material for download, and recorded webinars

and PDF 2.0 which is the new basic standard for PDF which
other PDF substandards now are based on since year 2020

PDF logo

PDF: The de facto Digital Document Technology

PDF is a basic technology for digital documents with wide range of uses

    PDF today

    The Portable Document Format (commonly known as “PDF”)
    is a file format developed in the early 1990s as a way to share
    computer documents, including text formatting and inline images.

    PDF technology was designed to allow for presentation of documents
    independent of the application software, operating system and
    hardware used to create them.

    PDF, designed as a general-purpose,
    page-based digital document technology,
    is the world’s chosen digital document format,
    with applications far beyond conveying rendered pages.

    PDF files encapsulate a complete description of a fixed-layout document,
    including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it.

    PDF files may also include a wide variety of other content,
    from hyperlinks to metadata to logical structure to JavaScript and
    attached files, that allow the format to meet a wide variety of
    functional and workflow requirements for digital documents.

    Today PDF spans workflows in publishing, manufacturing,
    financial services, government, accounting, litigation,
    human-resources, logistics and many others,
    by users on every continent.

    Today, PDF is the quintessential and ubiquitous "digital document",
    with billions made each year.
    Adobe Document Cloud alone opens more than 300 billion PDF files each year.

    PDF just works!

    PDF is developed to fit into workflows.
    The format’s innate ability to glide through and between multiple
    workflows, a function of its built-in essential "self-contained-ness",
    is unique and critical to its success.

    That’s because PDF embodies fundamental ideas about what’s
    important in communications, ideas that led to the invention of
    writing, then paper, then PDF.

    These ideas are so basic that we don’t really have good words for them.
    Users think about the document’s contents, not the document itself.
    Ask them about PDF and they’ll say;
    "it’s easy", "it looks the same", "it’s reliable", and so on.

    PDF just works and is suited to a wide range of purposes,
    as reflected in broad choice of software that creates and uses PDF files.

    The range is eclectic;
    not just software for server, nor desktop,
    nor accessibility or print, or security,
    but some, all, and none of the above.

    PDF is a page-based technology,
    thus the term "page" is frequently used.
    But many sectors and PDF applications don’t
    print, share or publish pages.
    For example, you may be designing for labels, packaging,
    industrial print, book covers, signs, or even textiles.
    So, if you are not printing, sharing, publishing pages,
    you can translate "pages" to the format most
    appropriate for your use case.

    PDF is a cross-section of means for addressing diverse business
    processes and workflows; for using digital documents to solve
    problems, reduce costs, invent new solutions and enable other
    opportunities in every activity and industry sector.

    The one commonality; they do it with PDF.

ISO Standards based on PDF Technology

PDF - ISO 32000 itself is a Standard - Picture

Figure: PDF - ISO 32000 itself is a Standard

PDF Substandards for particular use

PDF- logo PDF/A- logo PDF/E - logo PDF/VT - logo PDF/UA - logo PDF/X - logo
PDF Substandards for particular use - PDF/A, PDF/X, PDF/UA - Picture

Figure: PDF Substandards for particular use

PDF standards explained;
with a focus on the newest (Sept. 15, 2021)

Can a PDF easily comply to PDF/A, PDF/X and PDF/UA?

PDF/A and PDF/UA Intersecting Standards - Illustration

PDF standards are not mutually exclusive (March 15, 2018)

    • Yes, of course! A PDF can easily comply to
      PDF/A, PDF/X and PDF/UA? (June 13, 2018)

    • A PDF document can simultaneously meet several standards,
      for example both PDF/UA and PDF/A, both PDF/A and PDF/X,
      or all three of PDF/UA and PDF/A and PDF/X.

      Practical use case - Long-term archiving of accessible PDF:

        An accessible PDF has to comply with PDF/UA.
        PDF/UA has a concise set of rules and should
        be used to test whether a PDF file accessible.

        For long-term archiving of this accessible PDF,
        the PDF is also required to comply with at least
        PDF/A-2a, or PDF/A-2b, or PDF/A-1b.

        PDF/A-2 is much more in line with the requirements for PDF/UA.
        The combination of the two is just easier to achieve and
        more logical than it would be with PDF/A-1.

        PDF/A-1 is no longer recommended because it is a standard that
        was designed based on what was possible almost 20 years ago.
        IT and PDF standards have evolved a lot since then!

ISO standards based on PDF technology - details

PDF- logoPDF/A- logoPDF/E - logo
PDF/VT - logoPDF/UA - logoPDF/X - logo

ISO standards based on PDF technology - details

ISO standards based on PDF technology - Picture

Click on picture

Family tree of
PDF specifications and related ISO standards

Family tree of PDF specifications and related ISO standards by The German Printing and Media Industries Federation (BVDM) - Picture

The German Printing and Media Industries Federation (BVDM)

PDF Association - Logo

PDF Association Flyers
Introduction and Overview of PDF-based ISO Standards
PDF Association - PDF/A - PDF/UA - NVDA Goes PDF/UA - PDF/VT

Click on any picture below for download
or order your own printed copy free of charge from

NewFormat AB

PDF Association Flyer Front Cover - Picture

ISO Standards for
PDF Technology

PDF/A Flyer Front Cover - Picture

PDF/A - ISO 19005:
Standards for
long-term digital archiving
of digital documents

PDF/UA Flyer Front Cover - Picture

PDF/UA - ISO 14289-1:
The standard for
universally accessible
PDF documents and PDF forms

PDF Association NVDA Goes PDF/UA Flyer Front Cover - Picture

NVDA Screen Reader Goes PDF/UA

PDF/VT Flyer Front Cover - Picture

PDF/VT - ISO 16612-2
The PDF Standard for
Personalized Print

PDF 2.0 Interop Workshops 2017 Flyer Front Cover - Picture

PDF 2.0 - ISO 32000-2
Interop Workshops 2017
Preparing for the Next-Generation PDF

PDF Association - Logo

Recommended reading on PDF Standards
Free Booklet Downloads

Click on any picture below for download
or order your own printed copy free of charge from

NewFormat AB

PDF/A in a Nutshell 2.0 - Front Cover - Picture

The ISO Standard PDF/A - Long-term Preservation/Archiving
From PDF/A-1 to PDF/A-3
(May 13, 2013)

PDF/UA in a Nutshell - Front Cover - Picture

The ISO Standard PDF/UA - Accessible PDF documents
(Aug. 2, 2013)

PDF/X in a Nutshell - Front Cover - Picture

The ISO Standard PDF/X - PDF for Printing
(May 16, 2017)

PDF in Manufacturing - Front Cover - Picture

PDF in Manufacturing
The future of 3D documentation
(May 13, 2020)

PDF is at the heart of manufacturing and engineering communications.
PDF technology supports manufacturing worldwide, conveying ideas,
plans, communications, agreements, specifications, contracts…
and of course, 2D and 3D drawings and supporting content
throughout complex workflows and across corporate,
organizational and process boundaries.

PDF Association PDF Products and Services Guide 2019

PDF Association PDF Products and Services Guide 2019 - Front Cover - Picture

Products, Solutions and Services available from
PDF Association Members
(May 30, 2019)

PDF Declarations

PDF Association - PDF Declarations - Front Cover - Picture

(Sept. 5, 2019)

(For download of the guide, click on the picture above)

    ISO-standardized subsets of PDF such as PDF/A, PDF/UA and PDF/X
    already include identification mechanisms.

    However, in many cases users of PDF files would like to leverage
    3rd party standards or other profiles of PDF to meet specific needs.

    The PDF Declarations mechanism allows creation and editing software
    to declare, via a PDF Declaration, a PDF file to be in conformance with a
    3rd party specification or profile that may not be related to PDF technology.
    The 3rd party specification or profile may describe or require properties
    specific to some or all content in the PDF document.

    Cases include, but are not limited to specifications or profiles that:

    • Mandate properties
      (e.g., accessibility specifications)

    • Mandate degree of accuracy
      (e.g., engineering specifications)

    • Set limits on content types
      (e.g., that all images use a specific encoding)

    • Make an accountable policy statement regarding document content
      (e.g., pertaining to privacy regulations)

    • Profile PDF for specific purposes
      (e.g., to archive email)

    By itself, the presence of a PDF Declaration does not guarantee
    that the document conforms to the 3rd party specification or profile.

PDF Association - Logo

PDF Association Cheat Sheets

PDF Association PDF Cheat Sheets
for Developers of Software Tools and Solutions
Based on PDF-technology
Aug. 25, 2023

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 Cheat Sheets Overview - Picture

    PDF Cheat Sheets are quick-reference tools intended to help
    developers work more efficiently while ensuring that their
    knowledge of PDF is technically correct.

    To help developers whose relationship with PDF’s specification
    is casual or tangential, these free PDF cheat sheets provide
    aid in remembering key terms and concepts without constantly
    referring to the ISO 32000 Specification for PDF.

    What these Cheat Sheets are not:

    These cheat sheets don’t introduce PDF technology,
    and don't substitute for an initial learning phase.
    Nor do they displace the official core PDF specification.

    Where the cheat sheets don’t address a subject in sufficient detail,
    developers should always refer to the latest ISO 32000-2 specification,
    as this is the latest and most up-to-date edition of
    the core PDF specification.

    What these Cheat Sheets are

    These cheat sheets are designed to help developers
    work more efficiently while ensuring that their
    knowledge of PDF is technically correct.

    They are highly condensed summaries,
    with logical groupings of information to help
    jog one’s memory about nuances or details that are
    often forgotten without regular and repeated use.

    These cheat sheets use simple sentences,
    illustrations and color coding wherever possible to
    optimize support for the global community of PDF developers.

    For downloads of these PDF files, click on the links below.

PDF - Basics - Cheat Sheet

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 Cheat Sheets, Basics - Picture

Click to preview

    Topics covered:

      The PDF Basics cheat sheet summarizes the essence of PDF,
      including principal terminology, acronyms, specifications,
      lexical rules, syntax, file layout, and document structure,
      along with a glossary of common and PDF-centric terms.

      It is useful not only to software engineers,
      but also product managers and anyone needing
      to navigate the PDF ecosystem.


PDF - Graphic Operators and Operands - Cheat Sheet

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 Cheat Sheets, Graphic Operators and Operands - Picture

Click to preview

    Topics covered:

      The PDF Graphic Operators and Operands cheat sheet
      covers the graphic commands that can be used in
      PDF content streams.
      If you need to create or modify PDF graphics
      or debug a content stream, this is for you.

      For those more familiar with other page description languages
      or graphics languages, the categorization of commands into
      vector (line art), text, color, etc. can help you locate
      the corresponding or equivalent PDF information rapidly.


PDF - Common Objects - Cheat Sheet

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 Cheat Sheets, Common Objects - Picture

Click to preview

    Topics covered:

      The PDF Common Objects cheat sheet
      summarizes six of the most common objects used in PDF.

      These are:

      • The graphics state parameters set with operands,
        or via extended graphics state parameter (ExtGState)
        dictionaries and the gs operator;

      • The set of 28 annotation objects;

      • The set of 11 color spaces supported by PDF;

      • PDF’s various kinds of font objects;

      • The various name trees available via
        the Document Catalog Names entry,
        which maps strings to objects;

      • Resource dictionary objects,
        which list the resources needed by content streams.


PDF - Color Processing & Blend Modes - Cheat Sheet

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 Cheat Sheets, PDF - Color Processing  & Blend Modes - Cheat Sheet - Picture

Click to preview

    Topics covered:

      The 3 page PDF Color cheat sheet
      summarizes the encoding of color in PDF.

      It includes information on blend modes, color processing,
      function objects and patterns and shadings:

      • Blend Modes in RGB

      • Blend Modes in CMYK

      • PDF Color Porcessing

      • Approximating sRGB with CalRGB

      • PDF Fragment Identifiers

      • PDF Function Objects

      • Patterns and Shadings


Webinars / Video recordings - Icon

Recommended webinars

PDF Days Europe 2022

It’s your PDF Association (2022)

Duff Johnson,
CEO, PDF Association

PDF Days Europe 2022

PDF’s mindshare (2022)

"PDF is just l´like electricity...
You never want to think
about how it works.
You can't live without it."

Duff Johnson
CEO, PDF Association

Complementing Facts,
Google Trends Reports on:

PDF's Popularity Online / On the Web

PDF Days Europe 2022

Navigating the PDF ecosystem (2022)

Peter Wyatt
CTO, PDF Association

Keynote at PDF Days Europe 2022

The future:
Re-imagining the best possible definition of PDF

Peter Wyatt
CTO, PDF Association

See also:

SafeDocs Phase 3:
Revolutionizing file format specifications,
beginning with PDF

Keynote at PDF Days Europe 2022

Is Digital Transformation the end of PDF?
No, but it will be different

Kenny Swipe
Senior Manager
Enterprise Interoperability Standards
Engineering, Test & Technology

Introduction to
PDF-based ISO Standards (2018)

PDF/Portable Document Format (2015)

What is it,
Who owns it,
Why it matters

PDF 101 - Introduction to PDF (2015)

Leonard Rosenthol
Senior Principal Scientist
PDF Architect, and CAI Architect for Adobe

This PDF – what is it for?

A story from PDF’s early days (2016)

PDF Workflow (2016)

Introduction to PDF/A for Longt-Term Archiving (2018)

(PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2, PDF/A-3)

PDF/A-3 as preservation format (2015)

PDF & Open Data (2018)
(incl. interactive e-invoices
based on PDF/A-3)

PDF Days Europe 2022

10 Years of PDF/A-3 Based
Electronic Invoicing (2022)

Dr. Bernd Wild
intarsys consulting GmbH

The presentation looks at the development
of the various standard versions such as:

Details on ZUGFeRD / Factur-X, Order-X och Delivery-X

and shares experiences from practical use of
PDF/A-3, XMP and file attachments
to create and manage millions of electronic invoices
which can be understood by both people and IT systems.

How PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-4 are better than PDF/A-1 (2021)

PDF Days Europe 2022

Email Archiving in PDF (2022)

Prof. Chris Prom
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Peter Wyatt
CTO, PDF Association

This presentation looks at email archiving in PDF.
PDF provides a new and scalable approach that can be used
to archive email messages, folders, and even user accounts.

This session provides an update on activities of

the EA-PDF Liaison Working Group (LWG)

The LWG is developing a detailed technical specification for
the proposed EA-PDF (Email Archiving in PDF) file format,
including requirements for EA-PDF viewing software and
implementer guidance.

veraPDF (2015)

PDF/A validation
with support of the PDF industry.

The term "definitive PDF/A validator"
is not used any longer by this project
for obvious reasons)

veraPDF (2018)

Real world adoption of veraPDF
and industry needs for more
PDF standards

PDF Preflight Standards (2014)
(PDF/X and other standards)

3D PDF (2018)
The power and future in terms of
an ISO Standard

PDF Days Europe 2022

Aligning PDF 1.7 and 2.0 through ISO 32005
and using these for content
Reflow, Reuse, Extraction and Accessibility

Matthew Hardy
Director of Engineering
Mobile and Desktop software
Adobe Inc.

Branschkoll Pod (48 minutes), 2023-11-02

Pod (in Swedish) about open document formats, PDF and ODF,
and specifically accessible PDF according to
the ISO Standard ISO14289 (a.k.a. as PDF/UA)
with Ola Karlsson (Branschkoll) and Kent Åberg (NewFormat)

Link to sound track in Swedish will soon be available here

Accessible PDF

PDF 101
Introduction to PDF/UA (2015)

Accessible PDF

Entangled in
the tagged PDF jungle (2014)

Accessible PDF

Tagging Page Content (2015)
(to PDF/UA compliance)

Accessible PDF

What makes a tagged PDF properly
tagged PDF/UA document (2021)

Accessible PDF

PDF/UA Basics - Born to be Accessible (2014)

Accessible PDF

How does a blind person navigate
PDF documents and forms? (2015)

Accessible PDF

PDF/UA for Design Agencies (2018)

PDF 2.0 and the future of
accessible PDF (PDF/UA) (2015)

Developing PDF / PDF 2.0 (2018)
(What’s happening in
the Next-Generation of PDF)

The Imaging File Format of the Future

PDF Days Europe 2022

How PDF/R helps transforming
image capture for mobile and cloud

PDF/R Introduction (2020)

PDF/R (2020)
Looking for an alternative to TIFF?
Try PDF/raster!

OCR for PDFs – old news? (2019)

PDF makes it possible to embed
OCR results in scanned documents
ensuring that they are
fully text searchable

How to help AI get the most
from legacy archives (2019)

Intro to EPUB (2015)
(for PDF developers)

PDF logo

Detailed information on PDF Standards
and intended application areas

PDF logo

and PDF 2.0 which is the new basic standard for PDF which
other PDF substandards now are based on since year 2020

(Click on preferred icon or link)

PDF - logo


PDF/A - logo


PDF/UA - logo


PDF 2.0 - logo

PDF 2.0

PDF/Raster - logo


3D PDF - logo


PDF/VCR - logo


PDF/VT - logo


PDF/X - logo


PDF/E - logo


(2018: Replaced by PDF/A-4)

Use Cases

Next-Generation PDF

Deriving HTML from PDF

For PDF/X, see also

Ghent Workgroup

For PDF/UA, see also:

PDF/UA is a prerequisite for
Access to Digital Public Services


PDF Forms

Software tools supporting
a specific PDF standard or several PDF standards

PDF Association, PDF Industry Working Group - Icon

ISO 3200 the International Standard for
the Portable Document Format (PDF)

Approved international standard since 2008

PDF is widely recognized as
the richest and most robust document format.

ISO 32000 is the family of ISO standards
that defines the core PDF specification,
as identified by the PDF version number.
All other PDF subset specifications
depend upon a specific core PDF version.

The use of PDF is very high.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF:

PDF Association - PDF Industry Working Group

PDF logo
The Purpose of PDF

    The purpose of PDF is to enable users to exchange and view
    all kinds of digital documents easily and reliably,
    independent of the environment in which they were created
    or the environment in which they are viewed or printed.

PDF is a Platform

    Platform technologies provide the infrastructure
    for the applications end users actually use.

    Far beyond a document format, PDF offers a sophisticated
    foundation for many types of user applications.

    Everyone accepts PDF.
    A fixed-layout, shareable, self-contained document
    meets a fundamental customer need.

Why PDF?

    PDF is characterized by:

    • Easy

    • Portability

    • Flexibility

    • Security

    • Authentication

    • Semantics

    • Non-Proprietary

    • Accessability

    • Reusability

What’s unique about PDF?
And why it will last forever

    The Portable Document Format possesses a variety of attributes
    that taken together describe a format of such flexibility and power
    that it will define the essential “digital document” concept forever.

PDF: The document format for everything
PDF the document format for everything - The Format Zoo - Picture

Files inside PDF
Files inside pdf - Icon

How do "files" end up inside PDF files?
There are many ways…

    End-users are sometimes perplexed as to why they cannot
    simply "download" the JPEG file of a photo in a PDF,
    even though they might be able to grab an Excel file from it.

    Accurately understanding the kinds of data that can be in a PDF
    and how it is stored can be very important.

    The core ISO standard for PDF (ISO 32000-2:2020)
    is primarily a file format specification and does not mandate
    user interface terminology, user interface metaphors,
    how users interact with "files", or even whether
    file extraction is a required feature.

    These are implementation decisions left to developers to best
    address the specific needs of their users and target industries.

    Diverse interfaces foster various end-user understandings
    of what "files" exist inside any given PDF.
    This is especially true when we consider the many similar terms in use.
    Understandings differ or are ambiguous for end users depending on
    their background, and the terms themselves may have
    different technical meanings.

    Some of these terms used to describe "files"
    in the PDF context include:

    • File

    • Embedded file

    • File attachment

    • Image files

    • Asset

    • Collection

    • Portfolio

    • Package

    • Related file

    • Associated file

    • Stream

    • File specification

    This variety of terms can be very confusing,
    and can lead to misunderstandings.
    Ideally, vendors should provide clear documentation
    on their use of terminology.

    Although PDF content can be created from "files",
    this does not mean that a source file can always be
    recovered from a PDF even in the simplest of cases.

    Although the PDF file format supports many concepts
    that can be thought of as "files", PDF’s flexibility can
    confuse users due to differing terminology, user interfaces,
    metaphors, and expectations derived from other formats.

How PDF contributes to greater sustainability

    PDF has many advantages.

    In view of global climate change and the scarcity of raw materials,
    sustainability and green technologies are becoming increasingly important.

    is not a buzzword; more and more enterprises are striving for CO₂ neutrality,
    which is appreciated by customers.

    At the same time, PDF is one of the greenest office technologies ever invented.

    The format is particularly relevant in the context of the often
    promoted, but still unachieved paperless office.

    Introduced in 1993, PDF offers a stable foundation for replacing physical paper,
    according to the principle: instead of printing paper documents,
    generate digital paper documents using PDF.

PDF's Popularity Online / On the Web

The Only Digital Document Format

    PDF has replaced paper documents with digital analogues.
    Some expected the web to replace digital documents as well,
    but all indications are that PDF continues to grow.

    Many websites are, let’s face it,
    mostly navigation to help visitors find a specific PDF.

    Maybe that's why,
    and according to "Statistics of Common Crawl Monthly Archives",

    The basic reality is clear,
    PDF continues to predominate in digital document formats and
    has become indispensable for the vast majority of operations;
    for the business sector, for the public sector,
    as well as for private individuals.

    End-users feel that they can really understand PDF;
    it works exactly as you’d expect digital paper to work;
    simple, reliable and effective. And it’s SO popular!

    Google's Trends data clearly shows that PDF is a technology
    that's not only far more relevant in 2023 than it was in 2004,
    "PDF" is represented in a far higher proportion of web-searches,
    even though the total search volume on Google has increased
    dramatically since that time.

    "How much longer do you think we'll use PDF?"
    Interest in PDF is pretty steady relative to web searches in general.
    Compared to searches for other technologies, that's pretty remarkable:

    Google's Trends data shows clearly that the number of searches for
    PDF documents relative to all other searches continues going up:

    PDF is ubiquitous and essential:
    PDF is fundamental to business operations.
    Everyone who works in an office these days
    can be expected to recognize PDF.

    PDF is the "Coca-Cola" of digital document formats
    because everyone knows it:

    Navigating the Future:
    Unveiling the Path of PDF Technology in the Next 25 Years.

    In the fast-evolving landscape of technology,
    few formats have stood the test of time like
    the PDF (Portable Document Format).

    Born out of the need to digitize paper documents,
    the PDF has become an obvious standard for sharing and
    archiving information over the last 30 years.

    So, what's to come?
    We’re just as curious as you, so join us on a journey through our
    top five predictions of what the future holds for PDF-based technology:

PDF - Have we passed ‘peak PDF’?
How Google Trends sees “PDF” in 2022

PDF is more popular worldwide in 2022 than in 2018

    The big picture.
    Although the curve is flattening,
    worldwide searches for “pdf” continue to grow in popularity,
    indicating that the popular appetite for documents remains healthy.

    Users may be banking online, but their searches for
    PDF-based documents continue to increase.

    How do we gain insight into how users' views of documents are shifting
    without spending egregious sums on dubious market-research?

    One increasingly interesting source is Google Trends.
    This service aggregates Google’s search data to produce a metric
    describing search term popularity (relative to itself) over time.
    example: compare use of document formats: .pdf vs .html)

    When users add "pdf" to a Google query it means that they
    are not thinking about an HTML web page...
    except, perhaps as a place from which to download
    the pdf that they seek.

    Web pages are more dynamic than ever before,
    but they are no more “documents” than they were in 2018.
    Although web pages can serve “document-like” functions in many ways;
    in practice it's "pdf" that comes to user's minds.

    30 years since the PDF format launched in 1993
    PDF applications and usage continue to grow;
    the ecosystem becomes larger and more vibrant each year.

    PDF is key to digital transformation precisely because a
    self-contained, reliable and capable portable document format
    does what other web technologies do not.
    PDF complements web technology; it does not compete with it.

    PDF's staying power is impressive.
    Few technologies show as much resilience.

    The trend is clear,
    PDF is more popular worldwide in 2022 than in 2018:

    "PDF is just l´like electricity...
    You never want to think about how it works.
    You can't live without it."

    Presentation on "PDF mindshare" at PDF Days Europe 2022:

3 ways developers can impress the boss with PDF

PDF is part of the de facto platform
Open Web Platform (OWP)
Open Web Platform - Logo

PDF is part of the de facto platform
Open Web Platform (OWP) (Sept. 25, 2015)

The Power of the Page
PDF Association - PDF handover - Icon

    It’s a question that vexes vendors of web-based solutions everywhere:
    Why do people still insist on PDF files?
    And why does PDF’s mindshare keep going up?

PDF in 2016:
Broader, deeper, richer

    Bridging the page and the web, there's still nothing like PDF.

    Interest in PDF continues to climb.
    The world’s portable document format continues to go from
    strength to strength, with more specifications, more files, more users,
    more implementations and more developers worldwide.

How you see PDFs versus
how a search engine sees PDFs (Aug. 1, 2019)

PDF to end the era of ECM vendor lock-in

Making “information management” real

    A common portable container, PDF, to end the era of ECM vendor lock-in.

    Mostly, it’s the fact that a standardized, fully-supported and globally
    broadly-accepted portable container format would provide users
    with powerful technology independent of any specific vendor,
    ending the era of vendor lock-in.
    ECM Vendors don’t like that, but customers do.

    Over the next 5-10 years,
    expect to see PDF become the common portable container for
    a new era of smart, interconnected document and
    information management systems.

What ECM/e-archive professionals
must know about PDF

    Ask your ECM/e-archive vendor to detail their support for PDF,
    or risk unecessary costs, increased risks and missed opportunities.

    Although PDF represents the bulk of content in ECM/e-archive systems
    the majority of such implementations do not handle PDF documents
    much differently than they way they’ve handled TIFF images
    for the past 25 years.

    Not all PDF creation software is equal.
    Exclude software that’s dangerous to your documents.
    Use ECM/e-archive software that understands PDF.

    Ensure PDF documents do not contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
    and other privacy or security-related content is a critical aspect of releasing
    sensitive documents to 3rd parties or into the public domain.

    Note! For redaction tools:
    Be sure your search software can find all the information you need to remove.
    Just putting a black box on top of sensitive information does not "remove"
    anything (e.g. the document is still leaking sensitive information).

PDF supports work-from-home (WFH) and school-from-home (SFH)

October 19, 2022
Adobe has announced:
"End of life for Type 1 fonts in
authoring applications by January 2023".

Redaction of Document Content

Redaction of Document Content

Redaction is the process of removing content from a document.
There are various ways to achieve redaction in digital documents,
ranging from removal of content from an original source document
to printing and re-scanning after redaction.

The Potential for Deepfakes with PDF
Hunter Biden’s "email" and
the potential for deepfakes with PDF (October 19, 2020)

This article is intended for journalists, researchers, attorneys,
law-enforcement, application developers and other professionals.

Akin to the earlier series on the redaction of The Mueller Report PDF,
this article provides cultural framing and technical background for
considering the evidence provided to-date by the New York Post
regarding Hunter Biden’s alleged email from Ukraine.

    On Wednesday, October 14, 2020 the New York Post published
    an article in which they claimed to be in possession of a copy of
    a hard-drive belonging to Hunter Biden,
    the son of the former Vice President of the United States and
    current Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden.

    Some journalists are covering this PDF document as if it represents
    an email from Hunter Biden’s computer; it may or it may not.

    However, many people question the origin of the email.
    The question that should be asked is: Who actually created the PDF file?

    The PDF Association highlights here that this case may have other
    explanations and that PDF technology may have been used
    to create a manipulated PDF document;
    this article offers interesting insights for digital forensics technicians
    about the possibilities to manipulate documents with PDF technology.

PDF redaction – AstraZeneca EU Contracts (Feb. 9, 2021)
    What happened?

Redaction of contract AstraZeneca - EU

AstraZeneca Redacted Document - Picture

Click on the picture

After correctly redacting the text passages on the PDF page,
the PDF's bookmarks referring to redacted content were overlooked.
The confidential information was removed from the page as intended,
but was unfortunately disclosed in the PDF bookmarks!


PDF or EPUB - Logo

Give users what they want,
and why EPUB can't replace PDF

    EPUB can't possibly substitute PDF when it comes to a general-purpose
    digital document format usable for publishing, and all the other
    purposes to which PDF documents are put
    (formal documents, record-keeping, transaction records, etc.)

    • EPUB can’t do fixed layout and be accessible at the same time.

    • EPUB cannot deal with the case of a document
      that combines pages from various sources
      (Word, Excel, CAD software, scanner, etc).

    • EPUB has no model for color-management,
      which is not infrequently important to publishers.

    • EPUB cannot accommodate the application of accessibility
      structures to arbitrary graphics content, as PDF can.

    • EPUB lacks security and digital signature facilities;
      features that are native to PDF.

    Even for publications, support for the EPUB specification varies
    between EPUB readers from different vendors;
    thus, users can’t get a consistent display result of publications,
    which in itself is totally unacceptable for publishing.

    If your readers will prefer EPUB, give them EPUB.
    If they will prefer PDF, give them PDF.
    If they prefer a choice of PDF or EPUB, then give them that choice.

    Why PDF?, Why EPUB? How to Choose:

PDF 2.0 - logo

ISO 32000-2:2020 - PDF 2.0

Approved international standard since 2020

ISO 32000-2:2020, also know as PDF 2.0,
was first released in 2017,
and was updated and published in December 2020.

The Next-Generation of PDF Standards is Already Here!

PDF 2.0 (a.k.a. "post-Adobe PDF") is the basis for
a new generation of PDF standards.

PDF 2.0 is an evolution in the PDF family
that maintains backwards compatibility to
the strongest degree possible.

Important to know!

    ISO 32000-2 defines PDF 2.0 and is the first PDF specification
    entirely developed under the ISO open consensus-based process.

    ISO now holds the copyright to the PDF specification.

    ISO 32000-2:2020 does not include any
    proprietary technologies as normative references!

    PDF 2.0 is completely disconnected from Adobe.
    Thus, Adobe does not own any IP or license rights for PDF 2.0.

The use of PDF 2.0 will be very high.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF 2.0:

PDF Association - PDF 2.0 Industry Working Group

    PDF 2.0 provides numerous enhancements relevant to "Tagged PDF",
    the mechanism in PDF that facilitates digital accessibility.
    These same accessibility requirements for PDF 2.0,
    are elevated into the ISO 14289-2 Standard (PDF/UA-2):

Breaking News! - April 5, 2023

The specification for the latest PDF standard
ISO 32000-2 (PDF 2.0)
is now available for download at no cost from PDF Association

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 Specifications, Free Download - Picture

(Chapter 14 is focusing on
Document Interchange,
Accessible PDF (ISO 14289-2 / PDF/UA-2))

Why PDF 2.0 is the new PDF bible

PDF Association, Question and Answer - Picture

    How could the PDF 2.0 specification be useful
    even if we haven’t decided to support PDF 2.0?

    The PDF 2.0 specification is the best reference to use
    regardless of which PDF version you intend to support.
    It provides a clearer understanding of what’s expected
    than did previous editions of the specification, and therefore,
    provides better guidance on how to implement PDF correctly:

How to get started with PDF 2.0

Adoption of new PDF standards

callas software blog: Adoption of standards,

PDF Cheat Sheets for Developers

PDF Association, PDF 2.0 / ISO 32000-2 Cheat Sheets Overview - Picture

PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2:2020)
The PDF 2.0 Standard now released (December, 2020)

    PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2:2020) replaces PDF 1.7 (ISO 32000-2:2017)

    PDF 2.0 includes critical updates to the normative references and
    character collections that underlie all PDF technology.
    All PDF developers should procure this edition from ISO!

    PDF 2.0 spawns a set of updated subset standards designed to leverage
    the first "post-Adobe PDF" in the next-generation of archival, accessibility,
    engineering, raster image and other specifications based on PDF 2.0.

    A variety of PDF subset specifications are based on the PDF 2.0:

    • ISO 19005-4:2020 - PDF/A-4

    • PDF/A-4 provides normative guidance on long-term archiving of
      PDF files based on new features and other changes in PDF 2.0.

    • ISO 15930-9:2020 - PDF/X-6

    • PDF/X-6 adds support for new features in PDF 2.0,
      while relaxes some earlier requirements for file exchange.

    • ISO 16612-3:2020 - PDF/VT-3

    • Builds on PDF/X-6 to provide support for the PDF 2.0 imaging model
      in the variable and transactional printing context.

    • ISO 23504-1:2020 - PDF/R-1

    • Standard for raster image data interchange

    • ISO 25717-1:2020 - ECMAScript for PDF

    • Incorporates JavaScript (ECMAScript)
      to support a variety of interactive functionality.

    PDF 2.0 examples now available (Aug., 2017)

    The first PDF 2.0 example files are now made available to the public.
    This initial set of PDF 2.0 examples were crafted by hand and
    intentionally made simple in construction to serve as
    teaching tools for learning PDF file structure and syntax.

    PDF 2.0: The worldwide standard for digital documents
    has evolved (Aug. 30, 2017)

    The Portable Document Format is perhaps
    the most common example of a de facto standard, so much
    so that Wikipedia features PDF on its "de facto standards" page.
    From Ethernet and 802.11 to HTTP and CSS,
    the modern computing stack consists of hundreds of standards.

    The way in which PDF exemplifies the specific value of
    standards is almost unique, for PDF’s value proposition
    - the reason why PDF is today’s worldwide
    de facto standard for digital documents -
    is the fact of standardization itself.

    PDF 2.0 - What will it bring? (2015)

    To put it simply:
    PDF 2.0 makes it easier for developers to
    create tools to manage digital documents
    with more and better features at a reduced cost.
    For organizations that procure PDF technology PDF 2.0
    makes it easier to insist that vendors are delivering
    the highest-quality, most accessible and most
    capable PDF technology solutions available.

Are your software tools ready for PDF 2.0?
PDF 2.0 - logo
    Check if your PDF and workflow tools are compliant with PDF 2.0

    PDF 2.0 adds value to many workflows,
    including those for production printing,
    but it does also bring a small amount of risk.

    If a file has used some of the new features in PDF 2.0
    those will usually be silently ignored by an older reader.

    PDF was designed to be very flexible and to allow
    custom and proprietary data to be embedded virtually
    anywhere in the file structure.
    It does that by saying that a reader should simply
    ignore anything it doesn’t recognize.

    To a PDF 1.7 reader, most new PDF 2.0 features are just objects
    that it won’t recognize and should therefore ignore.

    The most common exception to that rule is around security;
    if the PDF file uses the new AES-256 security introduced in PDF 2.0
    then an older reader will probably be unable to read that file at all.

    The biggest risk area when considering when and how to
    roll out PDF 2.0 support is therefore that a PDF 2.0 file using
    new features may have those new features silently ignored.

    Some PDF readers will emit a warning that the file you’re opening
    has a PDF version number that is not explicitly supported.
    That’s helpful, but it can never be more than a hint to take care
    because that older reader doesn’t know anything about any
    new features in the file; it cannot possibly know if they’re
    important to you or to your workflow.

    Before you start thinking about upgrading the file creation tools,
    confirm that your print providers and converters can
    process PDF 2.0 files.
    Start at the end of the workflow and work upstream.

    Software tools supporting PDF 2.0:

    Understanding UTF-8 in PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2:2020)

    A brief introduction:

    Text strings in PDF are intended for character strings that could be
    presented to a human, such as in a graphical user interface or in
    the output from command-line utilities.

The relationship between string types as illustrated in
Figure 7 from ISO 32000-2:

PDF Association PDF 2.0 - The relationship between string types as Illustrated in Figure 7 from ISO 32000-2 - Picture

    UTF-8 is a variable-width character encoding used for electronic communication.
    Defined by the Unicode Standard, the name is derived from Unicode
    (or Universal Coded Character Set) Transformation Format - 8-bit.

    Because modern PDF text strings support Unicode they can reliably
    represent any character, symbol or pictograph from any language
    or symbol set supported by Unicode.

    Unlike when PDF 1.7 was released, today, UTF-8 dominates
    the web and has become the de facto character encoding
    for operating systems and programming languages.

    PDF 2.0 first added support for UTF-8 back in 2017.
    As the adoption of PDF 2.0 increases, it is important for all users
    to know that their PDF technology platforms and investments
    correctly support the presentation of navigation and interactive
    elements that can be encoded as UTF-8.

    Most PDF viewers should therefore today be
    expected to correctly handle UTF-8 text strings.

Testing of PDF UTF-8 support in various interactive PDF viewers:

PDF Association PDF 2.0 - Understanding String Types and UTF-8 in PDF 2.0 - Picture

Output from various interactive PDF viewers shows differing levels of
PDF 2.0 UTF-8 support for outlines, layers and document information.

PDF viewers not supporting UTF-8 typically display "junk" characters:
The decimal byte values 239, 187 and 191 in PDFDocEncoding represent
i dieresis (ï), right-pointing double angle quotation mark (»),
and inverted question mark (¿) respectively.

    PDF 2.0 introduces non-rectangular links to PDF

    PDF’s Link annotations enable PDF to support various forms of hyperlinking.
    Link annotations do not themselves contain any visible content;
    their purpose is to define the location and shape of a "hot area"
    on a PDF page, and the actions to occur when a user clicks
    within the hot area.

    Actions triggered by Link annotations can include hyperlinking to a location
    within the same PDF document, a location in another PDF document,
    an external URL, or invoking JavaScript or other PDF actions.

    Link annotations also allow document authors to define various
    appearance properties of the hot area such as border and highlight
    styles used by PDF viewers as visual indicators of interactive areas.

    Unlike HTML image maps, however, the page graphics underlying
    Link annotations are not limited to bitmap images but can also be
    device-independent vector graphics or text, or any combination.
    This provides a far better on-screen experience when zooming.

    Non-Rectangular Links in PDF 2.0:
    Until now PDF has never had a purely viewer-only equivalent to
    the HTML concept of image maps that allow specification of
    arbitrarily shaped hot areas.

    The new PDF 2.0 non-rectangular link capability isn’t just for
    architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) organizations;
    it’s useful for any irregular-shaped area in any PDF
    that requires hyperlinking.

    Usage examples might include:

    • a PDF with a map of the world could have complex Paths
      along each country’s border, with each country hyperlinked
      to different chapters in the same PDF file.

    • the non-rectangular symbols in flowcharts or process diagrams
      could be hyperlinked to related content in the same or separate PDFs.

    • a circular or irregular company logo could be linked to
      the company’s website with some appropriate visual effect
      (e.g., a link border in the company’s palette).

    For more details on Non-Rectangular Links in PDF 2.0:

    PDF 2.0 - Doing PDF Right
    Benefit from the body of PDF industry knowledge of "PDF-issues"

    Reporting and resolving identified errors and issues
    in any PDF 2.0-related standard ensures that PDF
    continually improves as an unambiguous interoperable
    file format with a clear and reliable appearance model and
    commonly defined expected behaviors across implementations.

    This helps everyone in the PDF ecosystem,
    from PDF developers to end-users.

    Whether PDF is your core technology or key to a larger solution
    this information is critical to ensure interoperability.

    An invaluable source of education and information on a wide range
    of technical PDF topics is the public GitHub repository:

    Although the resolved issues are expressed as marked-up changes
    applied to the latest PDF 2.0 specification (ISO 32000-2:2020),
    many corrections are also highly relevant to earlier PDF specifications.

    This is because PDF is a backwards-compatible format and a lot of
    wording has been retained, or is only slightly adapted,
    from earlier PDF specifications.

    Clause numbering has largely remained unchanged between
    PDF 1.7 (ISO 32000-1:2008) and PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2:2020).

    PDF developers are therefore easily able to identify and
    map such corrections back to earlier specifications
    relevant to their implementations.

PDF 2.0 modernizes cryptographic support
PDF Association, PDF 2.0 Chryptograhic Support - Picture

    PDF 2.0 modernizes cryptographic support.

    The first ISO-approved PDF 2.0 extensions update the set of
    supported hash algorithms and extend PDF digital signatures
    to include modern elliptic curves.

    Uses well-known and widely-implemented existing cryptographic algorithms
    and are built on top of the digital signature and encryption frameworks
    that already exist in PDF.

    Learn about:

PDF 2.0 and ISO 19445 XMP metadata
for image and document proofing
PDF Association, XMP metadata - Icon

    PDF 2.0 and ISO 19445 XMP metadata
    for image and document proofing.

    "ISO 19445 Graphic technology, Metadata for graphic arts workflow,
    XMP metadata for image and document proofing" is a metadata
    standard for PDF technology developed by ISO TC 130 WG 2 that
    "specifies the set of metadata to be used to communicate
    the approval status, proof preparation and viewing parameters
    for images and documents that are used in
    the graphic arts print production workflow".

    ISO 19445 is readily applicable to PDF 2.0-based PDF/X-6 files,
    just as PDF 1.x-based PDF/X files.

    This article provides recommendations to industry as to how
    ISO 19445 might be used with PDF 2.0 and related technology
    updates relevant to the graphic arts industry.

    Learn about:

    Discovering PDF metadata.

    The importance of easy access to XMP metadata in
    PDF files is more important than ever.

    Soon, ISO will also publish dated revisions to both
    PDF/A-4 and PDF/X-6 which will be indicated via
    new values in existing ISO-defined XMP metadata fields.

    It is common practice for many PDF applications to provide
    banner-style indicators when PDF files declare conformance
    with certain ISO standards such as PDF/A or PDF/X.

    In addition, these same applications may decide to protect these
    PDFs by opening the files in a read-only manner to help users
    avoid accidental edits that may invalidate the file’s conformance.

    However, some PDF applications have not yet generalized their
    support to detect new versions or dated revisions of ISO standards!
    This means that such software does not protect these files
    until the vendor releases updates to their software.

    The design of XMP metadata for each existing family of ISO standards
    for subsets of PDF is both forward- and backward-compatible.

    This means that even if old software is accidentally used to open
    a newer PDF then that software can know that a file is declaring
    conformance with a standard, even if the software is unaware
    of the specifics.

    Learn about:

PDF Fragment Identifiers
allows access to
specific content / Fragments of Documents
in longer PDF documents
PDF Fragment Identifiers - Icon

    This article is specifically for web designers, content creators,
    webmasters, and web browser developers that want to improve
    the user experience for website visitors.

    When referencing PDF documents from web pages,
    it is common to be linked to large PDFs where finding
    referenced information might be complex.

    This is typical across a variety of situations,
    including FAQs, referencing manuals,
    product information catalogs,
    references to specific chapters in books,
    articles in collections, etc.

    PDF 2.0 introduces new capabilities providing
    specific support for fragments of documents.

    PDF Fragment Identifiers help to improve
    the user experience for website visitors needing to
    access specific content in longer PDF documents.

    Websites can use URI fragments for PDF references so that
    when website visitors need to interact with PDF content,
    the precise content can be referenced,
    for a quick and helpful experience instead of a generic and unfriendly:
    "it’s somewhere in this long PDF document - work it out for yourself".

    A URI fragment occurs after the URL and starts with a # character.
    Technically speaking, it refers to a subordinate resource of
    the primary resource identified by the URL.
    URI fragments are extremely common with HTML
    as this is how intra-page navigation works using
    the anchor tag and IDs.

    In the case of PDF, the main resource is the PDF file itself,
    while subordinate resources can be specific pages, destinations,
    and other types of targets.

    Modern web browsers provide built-in PDF viewing capabilities
    frequently used by many people.
    All web browsers already understand URI fragments
    because they are a core part of navigating the web.
    It is simply a matter of augmenting the URL to a PDF
    by appending the desired fragment identifiers.

    Browser development teams now need to pay closer attention to
    the needs of end-users when accessing web-delivered PDF content.
    This includes fully supporting a broader set of ISO-standardized
    PDF fragment identifiers in their default configurations.

    Adding appropriate PDF fragment identifiers to the end of URLs
    to target specific locations in longer PDF documents can provide
    a far better and immediate user experience, including for users
    who are less savvy at navigating PDF files.

    Given the rapid growth in applications generating
    PDF logical structure (content semantics),
    it makes long-term sense to define business rules for
    key content locations in documents that can persist
    across multiple updates to that document.

    Referencing by page number can change
    if content is added, deleted, or moved.
    But by using URLs with the "nameddest" parameter and
    a controlled value, URL maintenance can be reduced.

    For more information,
    please read this article from PDF Association:

An Update on PDF Errata
PDF Association, PDF Errata Update, PDF under a magnifying glass - Icon

    An update on PDF errata.

    PDF Association’s core mission is to deliver a vendor-neutral platform
    for developing open specifications and standards for PDF technology,
    and therefore maintains a public errata process for addressing issues
    with the PDF 2.0 core specification (ISO 32000-2:2020).

    The errata process includes the initial set of ISO standards for PDF based on
    PDF 2.0 (PDF/A-4, PDF/X-6, PDF/VT-3 and ECMAscript for PDF 2.0),
    and has broadened the scope further to support all ISO standards for PDF.

    Learn about:

PDF Association, PDF/A Industry Working Group - Ikon

ISO 19005 (PDF/A)
the international standard for
long-term preservation/archiving of PDF documents

Approved international standard since 2005

Ensures that digital documents can be reproduced in the future.

Please also view the free booklet:

"PDF/A in a Nutshell 2.0, PDF for long-term archiving"

The use of PDF/A is very high.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF/A:

PDF/A - Ikon
The Purpose of PDF/A

    The purpose of PDF/A is a file format based on PDF
    that provides a mechanism for representing digital 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.

    PDF/A does not allow external dependencies and circumstances;
    such as time dependencies, Javascript, ...

PDF/A - Icon
    PDF/A for Beginners
      What is PDF/A?

      The A stands for archiving and thus
      PDF/A is the standard for long-term archiving,
      which guarantees a unique representation of
      digital PDF documents in an unknown future.

      The basic principle for achieving this goal is that
      the PDF/A file must contain all the elements necessary
      to correctly display the document.

      A simple example: the fonts must be embedded.

      Why should you use PDF/A?

      Documents need to be stored securely and for a long time.
      Retention periods vary from one industry to another, for example,
      in the healthcare 30 years is common, for banks 50 years,
      and for insurance companies 80 years.

      This is a challenge for documents,
      which are often only available in digital form!

      The motivation for PDF/A can be easily understood
      using the example of Airbus:

      • As early as 2000, Airbus had a requirement that
        aircraft design plans must be available for 99 years.

      • At that time, a working group examined the options and
        quickly came to the conclusion that PDF is basically a
        very good document format, but that it offers too many
        functions for the objective of long-term archiving.

      • The result at that time was "minimal PDF" and
        this was also the basic idea for PDF/A.

      What is PDF/A important for?

      For all important documents in your organization that
      require a long life span and where it is critical that they
      are displayed clearly and correctly in the future.

      How to create PDF/A?

      For single documents many applications allow you
      to set a s "PDF/A" option in the "Save as" dialog in
      common office applications.

      Many PDF editors also offer a conversion function
      to convert conventional PDF files into PDF/A.

      For mass processing of documents, a distinction can be made
      between scanned documents and digital documents:

      • In the digital mailroom of many companies,
        incoming paper mail is usually digitized.
      • Another use case is the digitization of file inventories,
        where tools help to immediately convert
        the scanned documents to PDF/A.

      • In the digital area, organizations should ideally
        create PDF/A files with the appropriate tools when
        generating their PDF documents at the outset
        instead of converting from existing PDF files.

      • For incoming documents or e-mails,
        there are rendition services that convert
        these documents to PDF/A.

    Software tools supporting PDF/A:

PDF/A - Ikon
    Conformance levels for PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2, PDF/A-3 and PDF/A-4:

    Conformance levels: a, b, u

    The different conformance levels reflect the quality of
    the archived document and depend on the input material
    and the document's purpose.

    • Level a (Accessible):
      • Meets all requirements for the standard,
        including the logical structure of the document
        and its correct reading order.
        Text must be extractable and the logical structure
        must match the natural reading order.
        Fonts used must meet stringent requirements.
        This PDF/A level can usually only be met
        by converting born-digital documents.
        PDF/A-a requires a tag structure.

    • Level b (Basic):
      • Guarantees that the content of the document
        can be unambiguously reproduced.
        Level b files are easier to create than Level a,
        but Level b does not guarantee 100%
        text extraction or search ability.
        It does not necessarily mean that the content
        can be reused without any problems.
        Scanned paper documents can usually be converted to
        PDF/A Conformance Level b without any extra work.
        PDF/A-b does not require a tag structure.

    • Level u (Unicode):
      • Expands Conformance Level b to specify that all text
        can be mapped to standard Unicode character codes.
        PDF/A-u does not require a tag structure.


      PDF/A-2b: Where "b" means that the PDF file must be
      a correct reproduction of the original document and
      in that format can easily only consist of scanned pages.

      PDF/A-2u: Where "u" stands for text in "Unicode".
      Must comply with the "b" variant, correct reproduction of
      the original document, and that text fonts must also be
      included in Unicode format.

      PDF/A-2a: Where "a" stands for "Accessible".
      Must meet the "u" variant with text fonts in Unicode format,
      and also be a structured document (tagged).

      PDF/A-4e and PDF/A-4f:

PDF/A Rules for Document Attachments:
    PDF/A-1 (ISO 19005-1:2005)

No attachments allowed

PDF/A-1 logo

    Example: Conversion of email to PDF/A-1:
    Attachments become additional PDF/A pages.

    Conformance levels:
    a - Accessible, b - Basic.

    PDF/A-2 (ISO 19005-2:2011)

Attachments as PDF/A allowed

PDF/A-2 logo

PDF/A-2 restricts
embedded file streams (attachments) to PDF/A files

    Example: Conversion of email to PDF/A-2:
    Attachments are converted to PDF/A and embedded in document.

    Conformance levels:
    a - Accessible, b - Basic, u - Unicode.

    PDF/A-3 (ISO 19005-3:2012)

Attachments in arbitrary formats,
PDF/A and other formats, are allowed

PDF/A-3 logo

PDF/A-3 has no specific restriction on attachments

Attachments in arbitrary formats,
PDF/A and other formats, are allowed

PDF/A-3 logo

PDF/A-4 restricts the attachments to PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-4
PDF/A-4e and PDF/A-4f allow any type of attachment

    PDF/A-4 is based on PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2:2017 and updated in 2020)
    allowing it to take advantage of new PDF 2.0 features.

    PDF/A-4 provides normative guidance on long-term archiving of
    PDF files based on new features and other changes in PDF 2.0;
    including page level output intents and improvements to tagged PDF.

    PDF/A-4 supports long-term archiving of PDF 2.0 files
    without loss of PDF 2.0 features.

    PDF/A-4 introduces ISO-standardized means of archiving
    certain types of non-static content common to PDF documents,
    such as form fields, 3D content and JavaScript.

    Using a conformance class to distinguish files containing
    interactive content the specification responds to market demand
    by facilitating the preservation of more information in the file.

    This new capability via additional conformance levels supports
    the long-term preservation of live forms, engineering and
    CAD type documents (replacing the need for PDF/E) and
    in no way diminishes the traditional archival uses of PDF/A.

    PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-3 comprise three different conformance levels, a/b/u,
    which often causes confusion for many end-users.

    PDF/A-4 simplifies this as PDF/A-4 documents
    may or may not contain tags.
    No dedicated conformance level is required for
    tagged PDF/A-4 documents, effectively eliminating
    the previous a/b/u conformance levels.

    Similarly, PDF/A-4 documents may or may not contain file attachments.
    Attached files must conform to PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2 or PDF/A-4.

    PDF/A-4 encourages but does not require addition of higher-level
    logical structures, and it requires Unicode mappings for all fonts.

    While abandoning the a/b/u conformance levels,
    PDF/A-4 introduces two new conformance levels:

    • PDF/A-4f: Allows any other format / non-PDF/A
      file attachments to be embedded;
      similar to how PDF/A-3 extends PDF/A-2.

    • PDF/A-4e: Is targeted at the engineering community.

    • PDF/A-4e is successor of the PDF/E-1 standard ISO 24517-1,
      which is based on PDF 1.6.

      The initial plan to define a new flavor, PDF/E-2,
      was cancelled in 2018.

      Instead, PDF/A-4e adds RichMedia annotations for 3D
      content in U3D or PRC format to the base PDF/A-4 format,
      as well as embedded files to create a PDF/A version
      compatible with modern geospatial, construction and
      engineering workflows.

    As with the other PDF/A specifications,
    PDF/A-4 does not require or provide mechanisms for authentication;
    it’s strictly intended to facilitate long-term preservation.

How do you choose between variants of PDF/A standards:
PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2, PDF/A-3 or PDF/A-4?
(callas software blog, March 15, 2023)
Making PDF/A Conversion Easier: How to choose between PDF/A variants, PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2, PDF/A-3 or PDF/A-4 - Picture

How PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-4
are better than PDF/A-1 (2021)
Winner Podium: 1st Place PDF/A-4, 2:nd Place PDF/A-2, 3:rd Place PDF/A-1 - Illustration

    Examples of Use Cases
    Where PDF/A-3 and PDF/A-4 Makes a Difference:
    • System-independent Archiving of Project Files with PDF/A-3,
      (Source: callas software blog, December 5, 2018)

    • Smarter Publishing with PDF/A-3u:
      RFC Editor / The Internet Standards Series

    • Accessible Digital e-Invoices / Accessible PDF Invoices with PDF/A-3:
    • Electronic PDF-based invoices that can be read, understood,
      managed and processed by both humans and IT systems.

      ZUGFeRD / Factur-X, the e-invoice format based on PDF/A-3 and XML:

      • 10 Years of PDF/A-3 Based Electronic Invoicing.
        The success-story continues with new hybrid document types.
      • Almost 10 years ago, ZUGFeRD 1.0,
        the first e-invoice data format based on the public standards
        UN/CEFACT CII and PDF/A-3, was published.

        The stated intention was to digitize invoice exchange and make
        the transition from paper to data for SMEs and single users
        as smooth as possible without losing efficiency.

        The idea of using PDF/A-3 as a carrier format and wrapper for
        the XML-based invoice data laid the foundation for the success
        of digital e-invoices based on hybrid documents.

        Apply the ISO Standard PDF/UA as well and your
        PDF invoices are de facto accessible PDF e-invoices.

        In 2016 FeRD (Germany) and FNFE-MPE (France)
        decided to develop a common hybrid invoice standard:
        ZUGFeRD / Factur-X.

        The ZUGFeRD / Factur-X standard is a
        hybrid electronic invoice format,
        that manages both structured and non-structured data,
        and consists of two components, a PDF/A-3 file and
        an embedded XML file (with identical invoice data)
        as attachment:

        • The PDF/A-3 file represents the visual part of
          the invoice and is therefore readable by humans.

        • The XML file contains structured invoice data that
          is processed automatically and by machines.
          The format contains different profiles of the invoice data,
          which are identical in ZUGFeRD and Factur-X.
          This tailors the data of the sender to
          the requirements of the recipient.

        The recipient can choose between processing
        the invoice as an ordinary PDF or let computers
        process the embedded XML code.

        Both formats can be used both as data in
        ERP systems and for visual representation in
        workflow and archive systems.
        It is clear that ZUGFeRD makes the exchange of
        electronic invoices between companies and
        between companies and public administration
        much faster, more comfortable and easier.

        ZUGFeRD = Factur-X.

        Since ZUGFeRD 2.1 / Factur-X (March, 2021)
        it is fully aligned and compliant with
        the European Norm EN16931.

    • Announcements / Breaking News - October 12, 2023:

      • XRechnung and ZUGFeRD approved as
        PDF-based, electronic invoice formats!

      • The German Bundesministerium der Finanzen, BMF
        (The German Federal Ministry of Finance)
        has now provided initial information about whether
        the already known XRechnung and ZUGFeRD meet
        the legal requirements for electronic invoices.

        BMF came to the conclusion that both
        invoice formats and corresponding syntaxes are in
        accordance with Directive 2014/55/EU of 16.04.2014
        (OJ L 133 of 6. 5. 2014, p. 1).

        This is good news for all users of the ZUGFeRD format
        and for the ZUGFERD community!

Electronic Invoices based on PDF Standards

Source: PDF Association, Electronic Invoices / Hybrid Invoices, Hybrid Invoice Formats, The role of PDF/A-3 for ZUGFeRD and Factur-X - Picture

Source: PDF Association
Hybrid Invoice Formats
The role of PDF/A-3 for ZUGFeRD and Factur-X

Source: PDF Association, Electronic Invoices / Hybrid Invoices, Hybrid Invoice Formats, The role of XML for ZUGFeRD and Factur-X - Picture

Source: PDF Association
Hybrid Invoice Formats
The role of XML for ZUGFeRD and Factur-X

Source: PDF Association, Electronic Invoices / Hybrid Invoices, Hybrid Invoice Formats, Early Milestones, ZUGFeRD and Factur-X - Picture

Source: PDF Association
Hybrid Invoice Formats
Early Milestones, ZUGFeRD and Factur-X

Source: PDF Association, Electronic Invoices / Hybrid Invoice Formats, Now ZUGFeRD = Factur-X - Picture

Source: PDF Association
Hybrid Invoice Formats
Now ZUGFeRD = Factur-X

Source: PDF Association, Electronic Invoices / Hybrid Invoice Formats, ZUGFeRD / Factur-X uses PDF and XML, XRechnung uses only XML - Picture

Source: PDF Association
Hybrid Invoice Formats
ZUGFeRD / Factur-X uses PDF and XML,
XRechnung uses only XML

      The idea of "visual data" (PDF) and "machine-readable data"(XML)
      in one file (as in ZUGFerd, and Factur-X) is so convincing that
      it is now also being used for other business documents
      such as orders (Order-X) and delivery (Delivery-X) notes.

      This presentation looks at the development of the various
      standard versions (ZUGFeRD / Factur-X, Order-X and Delivery-X),
      and describes the experience gained in this context with
      PDF/A-3, XMP and file attachments in practical use with
      millions of electronic invoices which can be understood
      by both humans and IT systems.

    • Forum for Electronic Invoicing Germany (FeRD) brochure:
      "Electronic Invoices – Practical Guidelines for Companies"

    • This brochure presents the rules and regulations applying to both
      the paper invoice and the e-invoice, and highlights the special
      provisions that apply specifically to e-invoices in the areas of
      transmission, approval, correction and record keeping.

    • The Forum for Electronic Invoicing (FeRD):
      "ZUGFeRD - The Format for Electronic Invoicing
      in the Public and Private Sector"

    • ZUGFeRD / Faxtur-X is a kind of translation of
      the European legal requirements
      (EU Directive 2014/55/EU, European Standard 16931)
      and is not application software.

      This translation or structural description of a data set and
      the associated dependencies must be implemented in
      the software used by a business.

      Invoice creation with ZUGFeRD / Factur-X:
      The integration can be done, for example,
      via standard software systems (i.e. ERP or EDI systems)
      or in-house IT departments can independently integrate
      ZUGFeRD / Factur-X into their individual software.
      Many accounting and ERP software systems already
      support ZUGFeRD / Factur-X.

      By also providing the PDF part in compliance with
      the ISO Standard PDF/UA for universally accessible PDF,
      the invoice also becomes an accessible PDF.
      Accessibility devices (such as screen readers) can then accurately
      reproduce the invoice content for the human invoice recipient.

      The key strengths of ZUGFeRD / Factur-X are:

      • The human-oriented representation using the trusted PDF
        to reliably communicate accurate information.
      • Human-oriented representation is prerequisite for
        implementing the EU Accessibility Directive in 2025.

      • The machine-oriented EDI information stored within the PDF
        for automatic processing of ICT systems.

      Benefits of ZUGFeRD / Factur-X:

      • Save costs on printing, envelopes and postage

      • No need to copy, scan, OCR invoices (less errors)

      • Approval process can be done digitally

      • Faster processing = faster payment?

      • No need to file invoices as paper documents

      • Different software systems only need to
        understand a single format (choice!)

      • SMEs can meet requirements of large corporations
        without former agreement

      • Mails with ZUGFeRD / Factur-X attachment could be
        detected, processed and filed automatically

      • Banks could read invoices ZUGFeRD / Factur-X
        and immediately process

      Press Release - March 1, 2022:

      • The new version ZUGFeRD / Factur-X is published.

      • Germany and France are growing together with
        the common Factur-X / ZUGFeRD 2.2 standard.

        The reference profile makes it easier for companies to
        implement e-invoicing, because they are now able to map
        any country-specific version of the European standard for
        electronic invoices within one single form.

        The Factur-X / ZUGFeRD e-invoice format is freely available.

        The technical specification is based on the international
        UN/CEFACT standard Cross Industry Invoice (CII) and
        on the ISO standard PDF/A-3.

        This complies with the European standard EN 16931,
        which specifies the standards and technical rules for
        electronic invoicing in Europe, thus ensuring interoperability
        and compliance with legal regulations.

        In addition, Factur-X / ZUGFeRD integrates a large EXTENDED
        profile which constitutes a standard library of additional
        invoice data which could be necessary for
        specific needs or use cases.

        Factur-X is one of the three formats which all companies and
        certified platforms will have to accept on reception in
        July 2024 in France, especially for SMEs use, which represent
        99 % of companies and more than 50 % of invoice flows.

        Factur-X / ZUGFeRD gives companies a tool that helps them
        in the best possible way to get ready for future developments
        in the field of digitalization of the supply chain.

        This new level of standardisation of the common e-invoice format
        in Germany and France provides the opportunity to complete
        the EN 16931 to address 100 % of use cases.

      More information:

      Additional information on ZUGFeRD provided by iText Software:

      Use Case - Generate large volumes of invoices with callas pdfChip.
      Create an HTML template and turn into ZUGFeRD-based invoices:

PDF Digital Signatures
Digital Signatures in PDF
Source: PDF Association, Digital Signatures, ISO 32000-1 + RFCs, ISO 32000-2 + ETSI CADeS/PADeS - Picture

Source: PDF Association
ISO 32000-1 + RFCs
ISO 32000-2 + ETSI CADeS/PADeS

    Digital Signing of PDF/A Documents

    In principle it’s a good idea to always make
    the conversion to PDF/A-2/A-3/A-4 before the signing.

    Every PDF/A conversion would lead to a breaking of all signatures,
    and, much worse, you don’t get any informations on
    the modifications executed by the converter and
    their consequences on the validity of the signature(s).

    In some case it’s not possible to convert the PDF before the signing.
    Nevertheless the archivists require a long-term format for their archives.

    A possible solution could be to make the conversion as the last step,
    producing a PDF/A-3 (based on PDF 1.7),
    or even a PDF/A-4 (based on PDF 2.0),
    and embed the originally signed PDF as an attachment.

    This works perfectly, although all participating parties need to agree on this
    way of satisfying long-term archiving (LTA ) and digital signing (DigSig).

    But, always try to avoid such constructs with signing components and
    redesign the workflow to match the "conversion before signing" goal.

    Follow/participate in the work with
    the future development of digital signing and validation:

Application of the PDF/A Standard in Sweden

    Binding rules apply for all Swedish government agencies and bodies
    keeping public documents from state archives.

    For Swedish government authorities apply to digital archiving of
    office documents and digital documents the authorities must follow:

    Riksarkivet's/The National Archives' regulations and rules:

    • RA-FS 2009:1 general guidelines for electronic documents

    • RA-FS 2009:2 technical requirements for electronic documents.

    As of 2016, for long-term archiving of office documents and
    digital documents these regulations and guidelines prescribe
    the use of the file format: PDF/A-1.

    (Comments/Please be aware:
    Riksarkivet/The National Archives is expected to revise its
    regulations and rules as PDF/A-1 is no longer recommended
    because it is a standard that was designed based on
    what was possible almost 20 years ago.
    IT and PDF standards have evolved a lot since then!)

PDF is Here to Stay - It Will Never Go Away

    PDF technology is a pervasive feature of
    the world's communications infrastructure.

    With a unique and unmatched feature-set;
    no other technology comes close.

    We're not going back to paper,
    so it's long past time for governments and businesses to focus
    just a little on this ubiquitous format that's never going away.

PDF/A och Enterprise Content Management system
Do Complement Each Other Perfectly!

With PDF/A the archive becomes the “Noah’s Ark” for every document
PDF the document format for everything - The Format Zoo - Picture

Memorializing Online Transactions with PDF Documents

What to do when RDBMS systems fail to memorialize transactions?

    By capturing the visual representation (in PDF/A!)
    at the time that the transaction is processed it is
    guaranteed that the data used in creating the document is
    current and valid and the visual representation of the transaction
    matches the expectations of all the parties involved in the transaction.

Future generations access to and render of vintage email
    Packaging Email Archives Using PDF (EA-PDF)

    Archiving email isn't easy or obvious.
    Commonly, solutions are vendor-specific and email clients are required;
    not an ideal solution for static records.

    In 2019 the University of Illinois was awarded a grant by
    the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop conversion criteria
    and requirements for archiving email into PDF containers.

    The EA-PDF Working Group, expert members from government,
    academia and industry, has filed a report that establishes
    high-level functional requirements for an idealized use of
    ISO 32000 Portable Document Format (PDF) technology
    as a model for packaging email for archival or other purposes.

    These requirements provide a framework within which interested people
    from the archives, library, museum, digital preservation, and developer
    communities can collaborate to develop a technically detailed
    specification and implementation reference model.

    The EA-PDF concept integrates the capture of EML or MBOX content
    with PDF as a packaging, representation and distribution model
    for individual emails up to complete mailboxes.

    EA-PDF Working Group:

    EA-PDF Working Group Report:
    “A Specification for Using PDF to Package and Represent Email"

    EA-PDF Working Group Presentation at PDF Days Europe 2022

    Future generations access to and render of vintage email?

    Archives around the world are filled with handwritten letters and typed memos.
    But what about correspondence of a later vintage?
    How should governments, universities, business, and archives
    ensure the future generations can access and render email?

    Emails for eternity (July 14, 2021)
PDF/A for email archiving - Emails for eternity - Illustration

    Digital messages often contain valuable knowledge that must be retained.
    But how can e-mails be elegantly archived?

    To date, there is no supreme solution.
    However, for a number of reasons,
    the PDF/A route currently seems to be the most practical.

    The good news is that e-mails are digital per se and already contain metadata.
    This makes it fundamentally easier to archive them than
    paper-based communications.

    However, in many cases, there are no company guidelines in this regard,
    so users decide individually how to handle their e-mails.
    As a result, there is a high risk that business-relevant messages are lost.

    Emails are handled by various specialized systems that enable
    the creation, transport, viewing and storage of these digital messages
    (lifecycle: client, server, relay, archiving system).

    For more on secure archiving of emails in the PDF/A format,
    we will have to deep dive in what an email consists of:

PDF/A Tools

PDF Association, PDF/UA Industry Working Group - PDF/UA Icon

ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1)
international standard for universally accessible PDF
(based on PDF 1.7)

Approved international standard since 2012
(minor revision in 2014)

Specifies the use of ISO 32000-1 (PDF 1.7)
to produce accessible digital documents.

PDF/UA-1 is of interest to organizations concerned
with conformance to regulations requiring
accessible digital content based on PDF 1.7

The use of PDF/UA-1 is very high.
Since its release, PDF/UA-1 has been broadly implemented
in software and is both referenced directly and
implied in regulations around the world.

PDF Association, PDF/UA Industry Working Group - PDF/UA-2 Icon

ISO 14289-2 (PDF/UA-2)
international standard for universally accessible PDF
based on PDF 2.0

Approved international standard since 2024

Specifies the use of ISO 32000-2 (PDF 2.0)
to produce accessible digital documents.

PDF/UA-2 is of interest to organizations concerned
with conformance to regulations requiring
accessible digital content based on PDF 2.0

The use of PDF/UA-2 will be very high.

The PDF Association’s work to advance digital accessibility

The PDF Association’s work to advance accessibility - Banner

Accessibility - Icon
Accessible PDF
A fully PDF/UA compliant PDF can be just as
accessible as a WCAG compliant website

PDF/UA - Icon
The Purpose of PDF/UA

    A digital or electronic media is accessible when it is easily opened, read
    understood and can be navigated by everyone, with or without disabilities.

    The purpose of PDF/UA is to define a complete set of
    requirements for universally accessible PDF documents.

    Rather than applying to the PDF file format alone,
    these clear specifications also define compliant
    assistive technology and PDF reading software.

PDF/UA - Icon
    PDF/UA for Beginners
      What is PDF/UA?

      The UA stands for Universal Accessibility.
      PDF/UA is the ISO standard for accessible PDF documents.

      Ensuring access to information for people with disabilities
      is in many cases a legal requirement.

      PDF technology includes a feature known as "tagged PDF"
      that make accessible PDF files possible.
      A good example of the need for tagged PDF is a person
      who cannot see the text or images in a document.

      The Tagged PDF feature allow authors to provide
      the sequence and nature (heading, paragraph, list, etc.)
      of the text, and alternative descriptions for images.

      Why should you use PDF/UA?

      For government agencies in many countries accessibility
      is simply a legal requirement, as countries owe their citizens
      equal access to information.

      It's also often required of companies offering digital public services.

      Good tagging produces better documents in ways
      that go beyond accessibility.

      Including document structural information helps in
      the optimal display of documents on different devices,
      and helps to categorize content for document analysis
      applications such as those using artificial intelligence.

      What is PDF/UA important for?

      To meet legal requirements and especially PDF documents
      that are published on websites; both public and private.

      The effort needed is worth it; especially for
      important documents that have a longer lifespan.

      A common approach in practice is to start with low-barrier documents,
      which represent a compromise between cost and benefit aspects.

      How to create PDF/UA?

      For digital documents, the "secret" is in the source.

      PDF/UA files should be made using software that
      supports Tagged PDF, as editing an inaccessible PDF
      afterwards requires a relatively larger effort.

      Most documents are created in Office applications,
      and then well-prepared templates help a lot.

      Office packages such as Microsoft offer (rudimentary) checking functions.
      Conversion to PDF/UA is then at best an uncomplicated procedure.

      Technically, there are many specific requirements to meet for a
      PDF document to be a PDF/UA compliant accessible documents.

      From an organizational point of view,
      in addition to training on accessible authoring,
      it has been proven in practice that it requires
      experts to prepare and maintain templates,
      allowing users to concentrate on the document content.

      Scanned documents are a separate area.
      A scanned document is not accessible at first.

      There are tools for single documents as well as
      for mass processing that perform auto-tagging.

      These tools typically recognize a lot of the structures
      in the document, but only achieve a low-barrier result.

      The remaining manual rework required for full accessibility
      is often significantly reduced.

      Also available are tagging services to manually optimize documents.

    Software tools supporting PDF/UA:

PDF/UA Defines Technical Requirements
for Universally Accessible PDF

    PDF/UA defines the technical requirements that must be
    considered when the PDF document is created
    to be universally accessible for all.

    The standard specifies HOW relevant PDF content
    (such as semantic content, text content, images,
    form fields, comments, bookmarks, and metadata)
    may be used in PDF/UA-compliant documents.

    Properly tagged PDFs are essential and a prerequisite
    for accessibility so that screen reader devices for
    visually impaired people or reading software for
    users with learning disabilities can provide
    rich access to a PDF’s content.

    PDF tags are also an effective method to improve
    Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

    Even automated text extraction from PDF documents
    is easier with well-tagged documents.

Introduction to PDF/UA
The ISO standard for universal accessibility

PDF Association
"The Matterhorn Protocol"
PDF Association - Matterhorn Protocol - The Matterhorn Mountain - Picture

To promote adoption of PDF/UA,
the ISO standard for accessible PDF,
by software developers, service bureaus and
those interested in document accessibility,
the PDF Association's PDF/UA Technical Working Group
has developed the Matterhorn Protocol,
a list of all the possible ways to fail the PDF/UA-1 Standard.

    "PDF/UA-Ready" software tools verify/confirm PDF/UA conformance
    based on the Matterhorn Protocol's set of checks to facilitate
    the exchange of detailed information on PDF/UA conformance.

    PDF/UA conformance requires validation of both syntax and semantic.

    The Matterhorn Protocol specifies a common set of
    31 "Checkpoints" with 136 failure conditions, whereof

    • 87 failure conditions can be checked by software alone,

    • 47 failure conditions usually require human judgment.

    • 2 failure conditions have no specific tests.

    • Some failure conditions pertain to the document,
      some to the page and most to individual objects such as
      tags, tables or annotations usually require human judgment.

    The 47 checks that may require human judgement boil down to:

    • Confirming that the document's semantics
      as indicated by the tags are accurate

    • Confirming that the order of semantic content is logical

    • Confirming that any role-mappings in use are valid

    • Several checks that apply equally to other forms of content
      (color, contrast, metadata, alternate text for images, language)

    • Checks pertaining to JavaScript,
      or other content-specific checks

    Recommended reading:

    PDF Association - Matterhorn Protocol v1.1 - Front Cover -  Picture
    • Matterhorn Protocol v1.1 - PDF/UA Conformance Testing Model (2021)

    • The 1.1 release of the Matterhorn Protocol, released in April 2021,
      adds a new failure condition and provides several clarifications.
      The PDF file is tagged to reflect current best-practice in tagging
      PDF documents for accessibility and reuse.

      Note: The Matterhorn Protocol 1.1 conforms to ISO Standards
      PDF/UA-1 (ISO 14289-1) and to PDF/A-2a (ISO 19005-2),
      and is presented as a reference-quality PDF/UA file.

PDF techniques for accessibility:
A new model
(October 27, 2023)
PDF Association, PDF Accessibility, Fundamental Techniques, PASS and FAIL techniques - Picture

    In 2018 the PDF Association’s PDF Accessibility Liaison Working Group
    began a project to develop a set of definitive techniques for
    accessibility in PDF files.

    The PDF Association’s Accessibility Techniques
    are designed to provide guidance to two key groups:

    • End users can use these Techniques to learn
      how to tag or check PDF files.

    • Developers can use these Techniques to understand
      the technical requirements of accessibility.

    The PDF Association will shortly launch
    its initial set of “Fundamental Techniques”.

    To provide a taste of what is to come,
    PDF Association now presents examples of PASS and FAIL techniques.

    This short article outlines how PDF Association has set out to
    improve upon W3C/WCAG’s techniques in several specific ways:

PDF Association Reference Suite, V1.1 (September 17, 2020)

Accessible PDF Documents in Compliance with
the ISO Standard 14289-1 for Universally Accessible PDF - PDF/UA-1

    PDF Association Reference Suite V1.1 adheres to these recommendations:

    The PDF/UA Reference Suite serves as a reference for
    software developers and practitioners interested in
    best-practices for creating tagged and accessible PDF files.

    Ranging from publications to transactional records
    the collection represents a cross-section of document types
    reflecting the wide variety of uses for PDF technology.

    Documents included in the PDF/UA Reference Suite demonstrate
    correct tagging in a number of sophisticated use cases, including:

    • Content spanning multiple pages

    • Complex table structures

    • Interactive forms

    • Links targeting structure elements

    • Scanned documents

    In addition to conformity with PDF/UA-1, some files are also in
    conformity with PDF/A-2, the ISO archival standard for PDF.

    Some files additionally demonstrate that PDF and PDF/UA-1
    support the use of structure elements for diverse purposes
    so long as they do not impact interpretation or representation
    of the document’s logical structure.

Why tagged PDF is an important prerequisite for accessibility
for everyone to digital information in PDF documents
    The IT and PDF Industry drives Tagged PDF forward

    In PDF documents, as in HTML, content semantics are
    expressed via tags, hence “tagged PDF”.

    Tagged PDF allows for semantically accurate extraction
    and reuse of text and annotations enabling accessibility,
    reflow and other applications.

    Tagged PDF is an optional feature in the PDF file format
    and thus not every PDF file is tagged.

    However modern tools such as Apple’s office suite automatically adds tags
    when exporting to PDF and Google’s Chrome now creates tagged PDF as well.
    Older tools may require an explicit option to be enabled when exporting.

    On the one hand, the fact that tags are optional means that PDF is
    extraordinarily flexible in accommodating every type of content from
    every source imaginable, even when the original source lacks semantics.

    On the other hand, tags require a knowledgeable document author
    and capable software to achieve good results.

    This article offers an overview of PDF industry
    activities pertaining to tagged PDF:

    The Value of (Correctly) Tagged PDF

    Tagged PDF offers a lot more than access to users with disabilities.
    From search engines to mobile devices, tagged PDF offers
    powerful options to make content "accessible for all"
    thanks to reuse of page-based content.

    PDF was originally intended to serve as digital paper;
    a properly rendered page irrespective of software or operating system.

    Pages, however, aren’t just for reading.
    Since people like to add notes, draw lines and fill forms, Adobe Systems,
    the inventors of PDF, decided to cater to these uses as well. PDF rapidly
    accumulated new features beyond faithfulness to the rendered page
    - it began to mirror the interactive capabilities of real paper.

    The first generation of interactive PDF features consisted of
    annotations of various types. Some allowed users to add text,
    others allowed users to draw lines and boxes onto the page.
    Still others go beyond the paradigm of the page,
    making it possible to add hyperlinks, audio and movies to PDF.

    The second generation of interactive PDF brought the ability to
    deploy a PDF’s content outside the page-based world.

    Tagged PDF provides the means to effectively deploy a
    final-form document to a mobile device.
    It’s the same means by which PDF files may be made accessible

    One of the primary motivations for tagged PDF was to achieve
    compliance with regulations that require digital documents
    to be accessible to users with disabilities, but implementers can
    leverage tagged PDF to accomplish or enhance a wide range of
    end user activities.

    Guide on to how correctly tag a PDF file for accessibility:

    Correctly tagged PDF is a prerequisite for display of PDF
    on mobile devices / small screens:

    The disadvantages of untagged PDF content vs
    the benefits of correctly tagged PDF content:

    Semantics or ordering:

    • Untagged Content:
      No semantic types or ordering;
      content is ordered solely for rendering purposes

    • Tagged Content:
      Semantic type and order is determined,
      content may be reused accordingly

    Search engines:

    • Untagged Content:
      Search engines cannot reliably access words and phrases

    • Tagged Content:
      Search engines get reliable access to content

    Reflow of page content:

    • Untagged Content:
      No reliable means of reflowing page content onto smaller devices

    • Tagged Content:
      Includes information necessary for reflow

    Real content and artifacts:

    • Untagged Content:
      “Real” content and “artifacts” aren’t distinguished

    • Tagged Content:
      Consuming software can choose to utilize or ignore artifacts

    Content copying and extraction:

    • Untagged Content:
      Content copying and extraction is unreliable

    • Tagged Content:
      Content may be extracted with confidence

    PDF/A conformance level A:

    • Untagged Content:
      Not eligible for PDF/A conformance level A

    • Tagged Content:
      May conform with PDF/A conformance level A

    WCAG 2.0 or U.S. Section 508 Compliance:

    • Untagged Content:
      Cannot comply with WCAG 2.0 or U.S. Section 508

    • Tagged Content:
      May comply with WCAG 2.0, U.S. Section 508 and
      other accessibility regulations


    • Untagged Content:
      Inaccessible to disabled users

    • Tagged Content:
      Accessible to those with PDF-aware Assistive Technology

Guides to Well-Tagged PDF Documents (WTPDF)

Tagged PDF Best Practice Guide: Syntax

PDF Association - Tagged PDF Best Practices Guide V1.0.1, Front Cover - Picture

(V1.0.1 - Januari 14, 2023)

(For download of the guide, click on the picture above)

    This document is intended for developers
    implementing tagged PDF and PDF/UA.
    Others (including authors with some technical
    knowledge of PDF’s accessibility mechanisms)
    may also benefit from this document.

    For example, this guide is intended to be useful for
    those performing detailed accessibility testing on
    PDF documents claiming conformance with PDF/UA,
    or on PDF documents claiming to be accessible
    according to some other specification.

    The guide includes detailed guidance
    for all structure element types and attributes,
    and provides guidance for PDF 2.0.

Well-Tagged PDF (WTPDF)

Using Well-Tagged PDF for Accessibility and Reuse in PDF 2.0

    PDF 2.0, the most recent specification of the PDF file format,
    introduced powerful new capabilities to Tagged PDF that enhance
    PDF’s capacity to deliver reusable and accessible content.
    With the introduction of WTPDF, the PDF Association addresses
    the critical needs of both reuse and accessibility,
    unlocking the full power of PDF 2.0.

The Well-Tagged PDF 2.0 (WTPDF) specification

PDF Association, Well-Tagged PDF (WTPDF), Front Cover - Picture

(V1.0.0 - February 28, 2024)

(For download of the guide, click on the picture above)

    This document describes a usage of PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2)
    that is compatible with PDF/UA-2 (ISO 14289-2).

    A common specification for both reuse and accessibility,
    is a massive leap forward for PDF technology.

    The primary purpose of this specification is to
    define how to represent electronic documents
    in the PDF format in a manner that allows
    the file to be both reusable and accessible across
    a wide spectrum of possible use-cases.

    Well-Tagged PDF (WTPDF) provides developers with
    comprehensive requirements for software that seeks to
    create fully reusable and accessible PDF 2.0 files
    in an interoperable manner.

    If you support WTPDF in your daily business,
    you also support PDF/UA-2.

    This specification’s rules regarding accessibility
    are mirrored in the ISO 14289-2 (PDF/UA-2) specification,
    thus this specification is the canonical reference for
    both PDF reuse and PDF accessibility in PDF 2.0.

    Use cases for this specification include:

    • ensuring accessibility of PDF 2.0 files;

    • managing reflow of content
      (e.g., for responsive layout on mobile devices);

    • derivation to other formats, including HTML;

    • interoperable structuring of unstructured content;

    • content and data extraction (e.g., copy-and-paste);

    • selection, annotation and redaction;

    • enhancing searchability;

    • unlocking content and semantics for use by AI;

    • change-tracking;

    • round-trip editing
      (e.g., word processor → PDF → word processor).

Using PDF/UA in accessibility checklists (2018)

    PDF/UA to simplifies the accessibility process.
    Applying PDF/UA to accessibility-validation processes allows one
    to package sets of tests together, streamlining the validation process.

The relationship between PDF/UA and WCAG

    All web content, including PDF files,
    must meet the guidelines of WCAG 2.x at the AA level.

    But, WCAG's recommendations alone are not enough
    to make a universally accessible PDF.

    The challenge with WCAG in relation to PDF files is that
    "W" stands for "Web" and "G" for "Guidelines".
    WCAG is HTML oriented and WCAG's guidelines do not provide
    many opportunities to physically test PDF files with respect to
    digital accessibility.

    For the technical implementation of accessible PDF,
    compliance with the ISO Standard PDF/UA is also a requirement;
    a PDF file can be compliant both with WCAG and PDF/UA.

    PDF/UA is a required complement, not an alternative, to WCAG.

    PDF/UA is consistent with WCAG, but far more technically specific,
    and provides a clear-cut means of affirming that a given
    PDF document meets high standards for digital accessibility.

    A fully PDF/UA compliant PDF can be just as
    accessible as a WCAG compliant website.

    To get the benefit of PDF/UA-1 users will need software
    that supports PDF 1.7 and PDF/UA-1.

What is the relationship between
WTPDF, PDF/UA-2 and WCAG 2.x?

    To get the benefit of Well-Tagged PDF (WTPDF) or PDF/UA-2
    users will need software that supports PDF 2.0 and PDF/UA-2.

    WCAG establishes generic accessibility norms for web technologies
    (including PDF) focused on end-user outcomes,
    whereas WTPDF and PDF/UA focus entirely on constructing of
    PDF files for reusability and accessibility.

    As such, WCAG, WTPDF and PDF/UA are entirely complementary:

    • WCAG provides requirements regarding content accessibility;

    • WTPDF and PDF/UA provide requirements
      that ensure accessibility in the PDF context.

    The best practice for document authors
    producing accessible PDF files is to:

    • consider WCAG’s requirements
      when designing and creating content;

    • use software capable of meeting
      WTPDF and PDF/UA requirements to produce the PDF files.

Why would I use
WTPDF and PDF/UA-2 instead of PDF/UA-1?

    PDF 2.0 introduces new capabilities providing
    specific solutions for the following types of content:

    • Mathematical expressions

    • Fragments of documents

    • Headings which skip levels

    • More than 6 levels of headings

    • Sub-divisions of block elements (e.g., lines of code)

    • Documents including “side” content

    • Documents with both titles and headings

    • Lists separated in sections with other content between list items

    • Links targeting headings or other content

    • Content that uses emphasis

    • Page numbers, line numbers, Bates numbers

    • Redactions

    • Watermarks

    WTPDF and/or PDF/UA-2 are required to take advantage of these
    PDF 2.0 capabilities in a consistent reusable and accessible manner.
    In addition, WTPDF and PDF/UA-2 add comprehensive new rules for
    reuse and accessibility of existing PDF features,
    including layout attributes and annotations,
    that PDF/UA-1 did not fully address.

Achieving WCAG 2.x with PDF/UA

    Why aren’t the PDF Techniques for WCAG 2.x sufficient?

    Creators and vendors who deliver PDF files are in many cases asked
    to deliver PDF files in conformance with WCAG 2.x.
    For many vendors this is unknown territory, and WCAG 2.x does not
    provide sufficient PDF-specific technical information to achieve similar
    results between situations or implementations.

    WCAG and PDF/UA complement each other.

    The AIIM guide, "Achieving WCAG 2.0 with PDF/UA",
    shows what’s necessary to create, process and validate,
    (in PDF file-format and conforming reader terms),
    a PDF/UA conforming document and reader
    to meet all applicable WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria.

    The AIIM guide is here:

PDF Association - PDF Techniques Accessibility Summit 2018 - Logo
Breaking News! (September, 2018)
PDF Association helps W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative
to modernize the W3C's PDF Techniques for Accessibility!

U.S. Access Board Affirms:
PDF/UA required for “modern” PDF software (2019)

    Accessibility best-practices for websites and digital documents
    increasingly specify WCAG for HTML/CSS/JavaScript content and video,
    and PDF/UA for digital documents.

    New U.S. Section 508 rules applies to all forms of federal ICT,
    regardless of file format or method of distribution.
    U.S. Section 508 applies to all ICT / all forms of digital communication.
    Not just websites, but documents, media, blogs, social media, etc.,
    for all public-facing ICT, plus 9 categories on non-public-facing ICT
    including personnel actions, questionnaires or surveys,
    templates or forms, education or training materials,
    web-based intranets.

    U.S. Section 508 defines by reference international accessibility standards:

    • WCAG for websites and HTML information, and

    • PDF/UA-1 for PDF files

    WCAG and PDF/UA complement each other.

    PDF/UA is consistent with WCAG, but far more technically specific,
    and provides a clear-cut means of affirming that a given PDF document
    meets high standards for accessibility.

    New Section 508 rules require PDF/UA
    for PDF 1.7 documents (2017).

    The U.S. Access Board has issued new rules updating its
    “U.S. Section 508” accessibility requirements.
    PDF/UA-1 support is required for PDF creation software producing PDF 1.7 files.

    U.S. Access Board Affirms:
    PDF/UA support required by PDF software (2019)

U.S. American With Disabilities Act (ADA)
also valid for commercial web content (2019)

    October 7, 2019, will be remembered in
    the accessibility community for a long time.

    As of this date, websites and mobile applications in
    the U.S. will be assessed as "public accommodations"
    rather than merely as one of many ways in which a
    consumer might access a retailer’s offerings.
    As such, the accessibility requirements (and penalties for non-compliance)
    of the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) will apply.

    It is now no longer federal, state and local government and their
    contractors who are required to ensure their digital content
    is accessible for everyone.

    The power of the ADA may now be leveraged to force corrective
    action by virtually any commercial organization offering
    a public accommodation.

    See also:

Application of the PDF/UA Standard in Sweden

    Access to digital information is a fundamental right for everyone.

    Sweden as a nation stands by:

    • UN Declaration of Human Rights,

    • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and

    • the Swedish Discrimination Act.

    • the Swedish Act on Accessibility to Digital Public Service;
      based on the EU Web Accessibility Directive.

    PDF/UA is applicable for Swedish government agencies and bodies
    in making public sector documents universally accessible for all.

    See also:

Entirely barrier-free:
Accessible PDF (PDF/UA) for Accessible eGovernment

    Access to digital information is a fundamental right for everyone.
    Making information easily accessible to citizens is undoubtedly
    a big part of eGovernment and is sought after by federal and
    state authorities as well as districts, cities and municipalities.

    Increasingly, information is only offered and passed on in digital form,
    whereby the reliable and user-friendly Portable Document Format (PDF)
    has established itself worldwide as the preferred file format.
    To ensure unrestricted access in every respect,
    PDF files must meet certain requirements.

    These are defined in PDF/UA as the ISO standard for accessible PDF documents.
    It ensures that even citizens with greatly diminished vision,
    insufficient command of written language or motor limitations can
    capture and interactively use documents without outside help.

    More in this blog article:

Services and tools to create
accessible PDF documents and forms
according to the ISO Standard PDF/UA

PDF Accessibility Liaison Working Group (LWG)

Follow/participate in the work with:

PDF Accessibility Working Group (LWG)


    PDF Accessibility LWG is focusing on developing techniques for
    achieving PDF/UA and WCAG compliance.

    PDF Accessibility LWG meets weekly to review example
    "pass" and "fail" PDF files ("techniques"),
    and develop appropriate metadata.


    Techniques for achieving both PDF/UA and WCAG compliance
    are fundamental prerequisites for successful digitization.

    The PDF Accessibility LWG is working to answer:
    What are the fundamental accessibility techniques for PDF,
    and how should a document’s components, such as
    title, table row header, table spanning more than one page,
    nested list, caption or formula, be tagged for digital accessibility?

    When searching for clear-cut answers to everyday tagging situations, however,
    practitioners often find locating the right content to be cumbersome,
    sometimes ambiguous, or simply inconclusive.

    The PDF Accessibility Liaison Working Group is working towards
    the development of a full set of techniques and examples to demonstrate
    correct solutions for all tagging issues:

    Who can participate?

    The PDF Accessibility LWG is open to all PDF Association members
    and by invitation, to non-member accessibility professionals and
    end user subject matter experts.

PDF Association - PDF/UA Processor LWG - Picture
PDF/UA Processor Liaison Working Group (LWG)

"PDF/UA Processor"
Software or hardware processing PDF/UA-files

Follow/participate in the work with:

PDF/UA Processor Liaison Working Group (LWG)


    To establish principles and a framework,
    and then develop requirements for
    PDF/UA processors and assistive technology (AT)

    Improving accessibility support for PDF documents means
    improving the way PDF viewers, other PDF processors and
    assistive technology (AT) handle tagged PDF.

    Although PDF/UA-1 provides conceptual requirements for processors,
    these have not been formally adopted as broadly as have
    PDF/UA’s file format requirements.

    PDF/UA-2, published in 2024, differs from PDF/UA-1 in that it
    focuses exclusively on file format requirements,
    with requirements for processors to be developed
    in a separate dedicated specification.


    Today, users who require assistive technology (AT) to read PDFs
    do not enjoy a similar or consistent experience across diverse
    hardware and software platforms.

    The PDF/UA Processor LWG was created with two main objectives in mind:

    • The first objective is to help developers who are more familiar
      with web technology be able to readily understand and use
      PDF’s accessibility features.

    • The second is to encourage vendors to move towards
      a standardized solution instead of relying on
      implementation-specific approaches.

    To ensure end users can obtain accurate,
    consistent results when interacting with digital documents
    regardless of software or platform, the PDF/UA Processor LWG
    will draft a technical specification for processing PDF/UA files.

    The business case

    Who will benefit from a specification for processing PDF/UA files?

    • PDF creators:
      More capable viewing software will improve
      demand for PDF/UA creation.

    • PDF viewers:
      Support for PDF/UA (and tagged PDF in general)
      will be easier to add and maintain with confidence,
      even for developers without specific expertise in
      supporting accessibility.

    • Incidental PDF processors:
      Awareness of PDF/UA (and tagged PDF in general)
      will make it easier for developers who
      don’t intend to present the document
      (e.g., anti-virus or document management software)
      to nonetheless avoid damaging it.

    • AT developers:
      A standardized API, for example, would make enabling
      PDF accessibility much less costly, increase the scope for
      user-specific features and options, and would greatly
      improve the end-user experience.

    • Document authors:
      When content is presented as intended,
      authors’ content will be more accurately and
      consistently conveyed to all the document’s readers.

    • Policy managers and regulators:
      With better software support for PDF/UA,
      policy creators, and regulators will be able to
      set clear procurement standards for their vendors.

    • AT users:
      Those reading and/or interacting with content in PDF,
      using assistive technology, will enjoy a comprehensive,
      consistent experience.


    Since PDF 1.4 was published in 2000 the PDF format
    has included syntax to enable accessibility through
    the feature "Tagged PDF (ISO 32000, 14.8)".

    PDF was introduced in 1993,
    and was designed for use with desktop application software.
    The first accessibility specification for PDF, PDF/UA,
    therefore focused on desktop applications.

    Today, PDF operates in a multi-platform world,
    but accessibility specifications have not kept up with
    current-generation software.
    It is now critical to define and achieve an equivalent
    experience for all end-users regardless of platform.

    Meanwhile, commonly-used web technologies have also evolved,
    and now target delivery of consistent results across platforms and devices.
    This has been made possible, in part, due to the development and adoption
    of high-quality APIs that have allowed AT to work across platforms.

    The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of PDF.
    Today, there is no common accessibility API for processing tagged PDF.

    Even worse, some accessibility vendors use entirely
    implementation-specific approaches.

    Consequently, end-users employing various devices
    typically do not receive an equivalent or consistent experience,
    a cornerstone of accessibility.

    Possible approaches

    Past efforts in authoring processor and AT requirements
    have included a variety of approaches, all of which involved
    mapping tagged PDF to something consumable by AT.

    Some possible approaches are outlined below,
    but others ideas are very welcome:

    • Requirements for processing PDF/UA files
      for content delivery to APIs/AT

    • Requirements for AT’s role and behaviors

    • "An accessibility tree for PDF"
      - building on Adobe’s PDF DOM, etc.

    • Leverage the web accessibility tech
      (HTML DOM ++) defined by W3C

    • A User Agent Accessibility Guidelines for PDF, similar to:

    • Mapping to your favorite accessibility API(s),
      such as platform standards

    Other possibilities abound!

    The approach thus far and next steps

    Because commonly used web technologies have evolved,
    and now deliver generally consistent results for web pages,
    the PDF/UA Processor LWG is "borrowing those wheels",
    as opposed to inventing new ones.

    For the past year the PDF/UA Processor LWG has focused on
    an examination of the various accessibility API role mappings
    for HTML elements and WAI-ARIA (and DPub) attributes to
    map these features to their functional equivalents in PDF
    (tags, attributes, properties, etc.).

    Next steps:

    Who can participate?

    The PDF/UA Processor LWG hope to involve a diverse group of experts,
    including developers whose focus is on accessibility.

    While developing the specification, the PDF/UA Processor LWG
    will welcome new ideas and provide a workplace for development of
    other industry-agreed outcomes (e.g., test files) aligned with our mission.

    The LWG’s intended participants are:

    • Developers providing support for accessibility needs,
      including remediation

    • Developers working on PDF processors that interface with
      end users, including PDF viewers and web browsers

    • Assistive Technology (AT) experts

    PDF/UA Processor LWG community will work closely with:

    and others to ensure that the entire ecosystem of
    those working on developing Tagged PDF technology
    are aware of and may contribute to these efforts.

Next-Generation PDF

Document Expectations Through the Ages

    Humans have put their thoughts to media with the idea of
    capturing these (documents) in time - for many millennia.

    Readers’ expectations have changed constantly
    and continually through the ages.

PDF and the "Any Screen" Challenge
PDF on Mobile Devices / Small Screens
(a.k.a. "Responsive PDF"!)

PDF Association is developing industry-based model
for addressing the "any screen" challenge

    PDF in the mobile world

    Based on the premise of a fixed layout,
    the page-description model better known as PDF
    was developed during a time where documents were
    exclusively viewed on desktop monitors, or printed.

    The advent of much smaller screens, and screens of many sizes,
    presented a variety of challenges –and opportunities,
    in the PDF paradigm.

    Thus, mobile PDF readers are now increasingly including
    the capability to reflow, so that the document adjusts
    to various screen sizes.

    A PDF must be properly tagged to reflow reliably.

    An accessible PDF, correctly tagged according to
    the PDF/UA standard, is also a mobile-friendly PDF.

    So besides that tagged documents are accessible to assistive
    technology users, PDF accessibility is vitally important for the
    huge and rapidly growing number of mobile device users.

    Next-Generation PDF - Deriving HTML from PDF

    When it comes to print,
    PDF is today the standard format used just about everywhere.

    When it comes to the web,
    HTML and CSS have obtained a similar position.

    However, in our changing world,
    print and web flow together in all kinds of interesting ways.

    Having a format capable of catering to both worlds,
    with the strengths of both worlds, would be very exciting!

    The PDF Association Deriving HTML from PDF Technical Working Group
    has been working on exactly such a technology project to
    develop extensions to PDF.
    This TWG is dedicated to continue to explore opportunities and
    challenges in advanced reuse of PDF content with a focus on
    pathways to HTML expression of PDF content.

    Technology that would marry the reliability and robustness of PDF
    with the fluidity and elegance of HTML; providing the best possible
    user experience for each type of device and use case.

    "Next-Generation PDF" is the code-name for extensions to
    PDF technology currently under development.
    These PDF extensions marry PDF’s core capabilities
    to the flexibility of web technologies.

    Note! A "responsive (reflow) web / HTML page" or
    a "responsive PDF document" does not automatically mean
    that the web page or PDF document is digitally accessible.

    It is also required that both the web page and the PDF document
    are well tagged, as well as that they meet current digital accessibility
    standards, WCAG and PDF/UA respectively.
    They must simply also contain an internal technical description of
    the content so that technical accessibility devices can accurately
    reproduce the content.

    PDF Association unveiled this radical development in
    PDF technology at PDF Days Europe 2017:

PDF Association, Deriving HTML from PDF - Text Banner

Deriving HTML from PDF

Guide: Deriving HTML from PDF

PDF Association - Deriving HTML from PDF Guide - Front Cover - Picture

(June 11, 2019)

(For download of the guide, click on the picture above)

    In the modern world of small devices, IoT and connected systems,
    where interchange and reuse of data is critical, it is reasonable to
    question the continued relevance of PDF’s core value proposition.

    In particular, search engines, machine learning and artificial
    intelligence systems focus on accessing information
    contained in documents over visual representation.

    In other cases, document producers wish to deliver data
    in a form that is suitable for automated processing
    while using a PDF file as a record for trust purposes.

    End users also want digital documents that adapt
    smoothly to viewing on diverse small devices.

    This guide describes the algorithm that produces
    conforming HTML from a tagged PDF, including how
    well-tagged PDF documents, containing both traditional
    fixed-layout content and the semantic structures leveraged
    by modern devices and software, can be reliably and
    consistently reused as HTML to support better user
    experiences and renew PDF’s value proposition.

    Follow/participate in the work with the future
    development of Deriving HTML from PDF:

Next-Generation PDF - "Responsive PDF"!
Demonstration Site
Duallab Next-Generation Demo Web Site - Banner -Bild

    Experiment with the conversion from PDF to HTML in a few clicks
    without leaving your browser.

    Introduction to the concept of HTML and embedded CSS in PDF documents.

    About "The Next-Generation PDF Demonstration Site":
    The Next-Generation PDF Demonstration Site is a demo site for a new
    technology to "Derive HTML from Tagged PDF" in a predictable manner.
    The technology, the derivation algorithm, is developed by the PDF Association.

    So-called "Tagged PDF" documents contain additional invisible layer with
    semantic information of all visual elements in the document, which is used
    by the Derivation Algorithm to represent the same content in HTML.

ngPDF Editor

 The ngPDF Editor provides detailed information
on the logical structure tag tree in the PDF document
uploaded to the ngPDF demonstration site

iText, ngpdf Editor, Tag Tree - Picture

Illustration from Itext White Paper: "Web-Friendly PDFs with ngPDF"
(Click on the picture)

    Key Features:
    • Turn Tagged PDF into HTML using the Derivation algorithm

    • See the derived HTML code next to your PDF for
      comparison and immediate adjustments

    • Inspect the tagged structure tree of the PDF document

    • Manage PDF classes and their attributes

    • Manage embedded files associated with structure elements

    • Create and modify the mapping between PDF tags (so-called "RoleMaps")

    • Edit the CSS to adjust the HTML presentation.
      Embed the resulting CSS directly into your
      source PDF document for further reuse

    • Download the modified PDF back to your local file system

    • Full support for PDF 1.7 and PDF 2.0 specifications

PDF original version
native without embedded CSS
PDF/UA Flyer Cover Full Spread, PDF original version without embedded CSS - Picture

(Click on the picture)

HTML version
native without embedded CSS
PDF/UA Flyer - HTML-version of original PDF - Picture

(Click on the picture)

PDF version
enhanced with embedded CSS
PDF/UA Flyer Cover Full Spread, PDF original version with enhanced embedded CSS - Picture

(Click on the picture)

HTML version
enhanced with embedded CSS
PDF/UA Flyer - HTML-version of enhanced embedded CSS - Picture

(Click on the picture)

Next-Generation PDF - "Responsive PDF"!
The Future of PDF is Based on Well-Tagged PDF

    The ICT Industry implements support for well-tagged PDF and PDF/UA.

    Industry solutions providing access to PDF/UA documents
    on smart phones and other mobil devices with smaller screens:

AbleDocs, ADReader - Icon

Next-Generation PDF - "Responsive PDF"!
Adobe introduces Liquid Mode for Acrobat Mobile
(September 23,2020)

    Consuming content on mobile has long been a painful experience
    - especially if a document is long and wordy.

    Liquid Mode is a display tool to flow PDF content and
    thereby make PDFs more readable on mobile devices.

    Liquid Mode for Acrobat Mobile delivers a breakthrough reading experience
    that enables a much easier way to read documents on mobile.

    Liquid Mode reformats a static PDF into a more
    dynamic and customizable experience.

    Liquid Mode is built on top of the rich capabilities of PDF,
    including the semantics of Tagged PDF.

    With the push of a button, Liquid Mode automatically reformats text, images,
    and tables for quick navigation and consumption on small screens.

    Liquid Mode simultaneously creates an intelligent outline,
    collapsible and expandable sections, and searchable text
    for quick navigation.

    Users can even tailor font size and spacing between words,
    characters, and lines to suit their specific reading preferences.
    This is especially useful for those who may see text as too small,
    squished together, tight, or jumbled.

    With Liquid Mode, pinching and zooming is no longer necessary.
    Words are resizable and reflowable, images are tappable and
    expandable, and tables are responsive.

    Adobe launches PDF Extract API:
    PDF extraction and document generation APIs for developers
    (June 22, 2021)

    PDF Extract API unlocks the content and data trapped in your PDFs.

    There have been countless PDFs created over the last several decades,
    with an estimated 2.5 trillion PDFs created every year.
    Can you imagine the amount of critical data inside of those PDFs?

    Last year, Adobe introduced Liquid Mode, which uses Adobe Sensei,
    Adobe's AI and machine learning platform, to understand the structure of PDF.

    Liquid Mode, besides being a display tool, in the new API helps
    tag and add structure to content going into and out of PDFs.

    With the release of APIs for developers available on AWS Marketplace
    Adobe deconstructs the PDF creation and content extraction processes.

    The new Adobe PDF Extract API builds on Liquid Mode.
    It’s a cloud API that analyzes the structure from both scanned and
    native PDFs and extracts all elements of a PDF including text,
    table data, and images, with an understanding of relative positioning
    and reading order across columns and page breaks.

    What sets PDF Extract API apart is that it can extract all PDF elements,
    unlike many other extraction technologies that are limited to one type,
    such as tables.

    Also, many providers are tied to specific platforms.
    Staying true to the principle of being platform-agnostic and unlike others,
    all of Adobe's APIs, including the PDF Extract API, offer the flexibility to
    use any modern programming language or platform.

    Organizations can use PDF Extract API to quickly and accurately
    extract data for use in machine learning models, analysis,
    indexing or storage, to automate downstream processes
    using technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and
    Natural Language Processing (NLP), as well as republish
    PDF content across different media.

    Adobe, a long-time partner with and member of the PDF Association,
    continues to evolve PDF, co-working through collaborative groups such as
    the Next Generation PDF TWG, PDF/UA TWG and PDF Reuse TWG.

Next-Generation PDF - "Responsive PDF"!
Google Chrome Adds Support for Tagged PDF
(July 29, 2020)

    Google pre-announcement:
    Starting with Chrome 85, the world's leading browser,
    will automatically generate a tagged PDF when using the "Save as PDF" option.

    Although tagged PDF is a first step and prerequisite for accessible PDF,
    this announcement does not specifically tell to what extent a Chrome 85
    saved PDF file will be in compliance with the PDF/UA Standard.

PDF/UA from Google Docs is Coming Soon! (2016)

Next-Generation PDF - "Responsive PDF"!
Apple Tags PDF
(September 30, 2019)

    Apple has published a new page indicating that version 8.2 of
    its suite of productivity apps; Pages, Keynote and Numbers,
    now supports creation of tagged (and thus, accessible and reusable) PDF,
    and not just on MacOS, but on iOS/iPadOS as well.

    Although all excellent recommendations by Apple,
    complete accessibility in PDF or any other format
    requires attention to a variety of criteria as specified in
    W3C/WCAG 2.1 (generally) and ISO PDF/UA (PDF-specific considerations).

Next-Generation PDF - "Responsive PDF"!
Microsoft vs PDF/UA - 2016, 2019 and 2024

PDF and AI:
Does ChatGPT support PDF?

PDF and AI:
What AI should be doing with PDF documents?

    Today, most AIs are fed with lousy and/or dumbed-down data
    that contributes to bias and untrustworthy results,
    and this is all before the problem of malice.

    How should AI be integrated for use with documents?

    To become truly reliable, AIs need schemes for preserving
    rich semantics and data when they encounter it.
    Let the author’s AI help the author to provide this richness,
    and let consumer AIs leverage it when it’s provided.

    It’s time for AI integrators to help authors make semantically rich
    documents and step up their game on PDF inputs:

PDF Forms

The PDF Forms has focus on advancing the current PDF Forms technologies
through the introduction of new declarative models with integrated semantics.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF Forms:

PDF Association - PDF Forms Industry Working Group

The Purpose of PDF Forms

    The purpose of PDF Forms is to modernize the PDF Forms technology.

    Digital PDF Forms is key.
    While Adobe made additions to the native PDF forms technology
    to bring it to functional parity with HTML, little else has changed
    for quite a long time.

    Although companies such as DocuSign, Adobe, Dropbox and others
    have created their own extensions to PDF to enable rich workflows
    it is imperative that these capabilities make their way into
    the core PDF standard.

    The PDF Forms TWG is now evaluating the forms technologies
    specified in ISO 32000 and setting a path forward to advancing
    forms in PDF.

    This community is dedicated to advancing the current
    PDF Forms technologies through the introduction of new
    declarative models with integrated semantics.

    These capabilities will not only bring PDF in alignment with
    modern HTML forms, but re-establish PDF’s leadership in
    the forms and workflow world.

    The community works closely with

    to ensure that those groups' input is heard.

    Specific areas in which the PDF Forms TWG plan to invest:

    • Connecting Forms to "derivation to HTML" concepts

    • Replacing reliance on JavaScript for common concepts
      (eg. validation & formatting)

    • Modernizing form data exchange (eg. no XML)

Conversion of Fillable/Interactive PDF Forms to PDF/A

    PDF/A forbids some of the features that
    will be needed by most fillable forms.

    This makes it impractical to have a fillable PDF form
    that also at the same time is PDF/A conforming.

    The way around this is as follows:

    • make the fillable PDF form as much PDF/A conforming as possible

    • send it out for being filled in

    • once filled in, send it through a PDF/A conversion process
      (preferably with callas pdfaPilot Desktop/Server or CLI);
      this last step will make minor adjustments to align
      the PDF form with the PDF/A requirements
      (e.g. remove JavaScript, adjust certain properties of
      form fields and so on, but without changing
      the visual appearance, and, most importantly,
      without removing the payload/the data as filled in)

PDF Association, PDF/Raster Industry Working Group - Icon

PDF/R - ISO 23504-1:2020
The new standard for raster image data interchange

Approved international standard since 2020

PDF/R (a.k.a. PDF/raster)

TWAIN Working Group and PDF Association Announce PDF/R

The Next-Generation Format for Digital Imaging
A PDF technology-based ISO Standard

The use of PDF/R will be very high.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF/R:

PDF Association - PDF/R Industry Working Group

PDF/raster - Logo
    PDF/R: The Imaging File Format of the Future (April 15, 2021)

    The PDF/R format is designed expressly to support
    modern standards-based document imaging workflows.

    PDF/R, an ISO-standardized format for storing,
    transporting and exchanging multi-page raster-image documents,
    especially scanned documents and photographs.

    PDF/R takes advantage of the widespread support of PDF
    for viewing, printing and processing files.

    PDF/R provides the portability of PDF while
    offering the core functionality of TIFF.
    The format supports uncompressed bitonal, grayscale,
    true color images, RGB images as well as JPEG or
    lossless CCITT Group 4 Fax compression.

    PDF/R fits well into existing workflows and is compatible
    so either existing libraries or newly developed frameworks
    can be used for embedded systems like firmware.

    PDF/R features include support for encryption and authentication,
    and is as extensible as PDF itself.

    PDF/R can be employed in scanning applications,
    as a standalone format or as part of a TWAIN Direct initiative.

    This simple and highly compressed format is ideal for use with
    IoT technology and helps to optimize cloud applications
    with minimal integration time and effort and
    no expensive library licensing costs.

    Before PDF/R document scanning systems were
    based on image formats instead of document formats.

    PDF/R delivers the advantages of PDF to all imaging workflows,
    allowing even low-cost scanners to produce PDF documents
    complete with metadata, encryption and digital signatures,
    if desired, straight from the scanner.

    The PDF/R standard is a great replacement to
    the traditional TIFF and JPEG image formats supported
    by traditional scanning devices and applications.

    PDF/R delivers compact, high quality images from
    image acquisition devices providing efficient and
    secure delivery of documents over a network.

    PDF/raster - Portable and Feature-rich (August 30, 2017)

    PDF/raster provides the portability of PDF
    while offering the core functionality of TIFF.

    PDF/R can help modernize and secure scanned image data transfer,
    especially in the age of cloud and mobile business workflows.

    PDF/raster 1.0 Documentation

    This document describes PDF/raster,
    a strict subset of the PDF file format designed
    for storing, transporting and exchanging
    multi-page raster-image documents.

    TWAIN Direct with PDF/raster Released

    The TWAIN Working Group, a liaison member of the PDF Association,
    has just announced the release of TWAIN Direct,
    their next-generation open source image-acquisition technology.

    TWAIN Direct supports direct network communication between
    desktop or mobile applications and scanning device.

Twain Direct - PDF/raster - Picture


The PDF REUSE is dedicated to exploring
the technologies and practices that facilitate
reliable reuse of document content and semantics
on diverse devices and the broadest-possible range of applications.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF/REUSE:

PDF Association - PDF Reuse Industry Working Group

The Purpose of PDF REUSE

    The purpose of PDF REUSE TWG is to define a complete set of
    requirements for "well-tagged PDF" (WTPDF).

    Today, consumers of PDF documents can choose from a variety of screens
    which presents real challenges to authors of fixed layout documents.

    Beyond use on diverse displays users increasingly want their
    PDF documents to work well with technologies that depend less on
    the page’s layout, but more on the content, including search engines,
    text-to-speech solutions, translation engines, 3D, video and other
    features increasingly used to enhance digital document content.

    The initial project animating the PDF REUSE TWG is to develop
    and maintain a specification for “well-tagged PDF” or WTPDF, that is,
    PDF documents that leverage “Tagged PDF” (ISO 32000, 14.8)
    to enable reliable reuse of document content on diverse
    devices and software applications.

    Reuse as HTML is a key target; as such WTPDF will complement
    the derivation algorithm specified in:

    PDF accessibility is a subset of PDF reuse that includes additional
    requirements beyond those required for strictly reuse purposes.
    To ensure continuity between these uses WTPDF will mirror equivalent
    provisions of PDF/UA-2, and will be developed in close cooperation with:

    PDF REUSE is of interest to organizations interested to take part in
    development and publication of this new subset specification for
    using ISO Standard 32000-2.

PDF/E - logo

ISO 24517 (PDF/E)
international standard for engineering documents
such as construction drawings and usually derived from CAD files.

Approved international standard since 2008

    Note! May, 2018

    The Upcoming Standard PDF/E-2 will instead be PDF/A-4

    The upcoming standard was earlier planned to be PDF/E-2 based on PDF 2.0
    to provide an archival model for engineering content including 3D.
    The industry was more interested in making this a part of PDF/A
    instead of following a new standard PDF/E-2.

    The ISO then stopped working on PDF/E-2 standard
    and is making it a part of:

    The use of PDF/E is low.

The Purpose of PDF/E

    PDF/E ("PDF Engineering") is based on the PDF format and
    specifies how PDF should be used for the creation of documents
    in engineering workflows; including 3D in the PDF/E context and
    archiving of engineering content.

A point of contact of the benefits of PDF/E
in almost every engineering field.

Key benefits of PDF/E

    Benefits with PDF/E:

    • Dramatically reduces requirements for
      expensive proprietary software.

    • Lowers storage and exchange costs as compared to paper.

    • Facilitates trustworthy exchange and markup
      across multiple applications and platforms.

    • Vendor-independent; PDF/E is developed and
      maintained by the PDF/E ISO committee.

3D PDF Industry Working Group - Icon

The Portable Document Format for Engineering

3D PDF is a PDF file with 3D geometry inside

Please also view the free booklet:

"PDF in Manufacturing, The future of 3D documentation"

The use of 3D PDF is high.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of 3D PDF:

PDF Association - 3D PDF Industry Working Group

3D PDF - Logo

The Purpose of 3D PDF

    3D PDF specifies how PDF should be used for the creation of
    documents in engineering workflows; including 3D in
    the context of archiving of engineering content.

    In the PDF context, 3D models are referred to as
    3D artwork (ISO 32000:2, 13.6).

    PDF files containing 3D artwork / 3D geometry
    are commonly known as 3D PDF files.

    PDF allows authors to combine dynamic, rich 3D artwork with
    metadata, text, images, video and forms in a 3D PDF document.

    PDF is at the heart of manufacturing and engineering communications.
    PDF technology supports manufacturing worldwide, conveying ideas,
    plans, communications, agreements, specifications, contracts…
    and of course, 2D and 3D drawings and supporting content
    throughout complex workflows and across corporate,
    organizational and process boundaries.

3D PDF - Logo

3D PDF and PDF Complements Each Other

    A PDF file is a self-contained document file.
    PDF files can be displayed for reading using various PDF viewers.

    A 3D PDF is a little special, inside the PDF document there is
    a 3D viewing window, where you can rotate, zoom and pan
    the contents of a 3D scene.

    The actual data for the 3D view is embedded inside the PDF file.
    The file actually contains a 3D geometric representation of the scene,
    not just images from different viewpoints.

    3D PDF files are powerful documents that support the following features:

    • 3D artwork is visualized or printed as part of a page

    • 3D artwork can be interactive and programmatically
      manipulated using JavaScript

    • 3D artwork can be displayed, or instanced,
      in multiple places in a document

    • 2D PDF content such as title block, revisionblock,
      list of materials, and other information that must be
      placed on a drawing sheet can be overlaid on 3D artwork

    ISO 32000 (PDF) has supported embedded collections of
    three-dimensional objects (3D models), such as those used
    by CAD software, since the capability was introduced
    with PDF 1.6 in 2005.

    Since then the use of 3D content in PDF has exploded as
    vendors, manufacturers and customers demand greater access
    to detailed technical information at every stage of the design,
    development, manufacturing and support processes.

    Among other segments, 3D PDF in manufacturing is a
    critical application of PDF and 3D technology servicing
    the entire product lifecycle, architecture and civil engineering
    needs for rich, data-driven and interactive documentation.

    Because they are PDF files, 3D PDF files are compact,
    secure and easy to share.
    3D PDF documents are completely interactive and
    can be annotated and measured.
    This powerful, easy to use format is transforming
    how we communicate engineering data today.

    Most 3D CAD applications have some level of support
    for creating 3D PDF files. Additionally, there are a number of
    applications that can create 3D PDF files from the most popular
    3D CAD formats without requiring an expensive CAD software license.

3D PDF - Logo

3D PDF Geometry Standards

3D PDF is a PDF file with 3D geometry inside.

3D PDF is an interactive 3D Model
embedded into an interactive PDF document.

3D PDF, Interactive 3D Model embedded into an interactive PDF document - Picture

(Click on picture)

Picture source:
Presentation on 3D PDF by Adobe Systems GmbH
at PDF Days Europe 2018

    3D PDF Geometry Standards

    The 3D portion within the PDF can be composed of
    either a PRC U3D, a U3D or a STEP 3D encoding type.

    PDF 2.0 therefore now supports three 3D formats:

    • U3D, as defined by ECMA-363,
      Universal 3D File Format, 3rd Edition (U3D), June 2006.
      Approved international standard since 2006.

    • PRC, as defined by ISO 14739-1:2014 Document management,
      3D use of Product Representation Compact (PRC) format,
      Part 1: PRC 10001
      Approved international standard since 2014.

    • STEP AP 242, as defined by ISO 10303-242,
      Industrial automation systems and integration,
      Product data representation and exchange,
      Part 242: Application protocol:
      Managed model-based 3D engineering.
      Approved international standard since 2014.

    • PRC, U3D and STEP represent the foundation of
      3D interactive data in the PDF context.

      All three interactive 3D visualization model formats
      can utilize PDF 2.0’s RichMedia annotation framework,
      but PDF 1.6 and PDF 1.7 files can only use
      the U3D format with 3D annotations.

3D Object - Picture
    STEP 3D Model File Format, ISO 10303-242

    STEP 3D AP 242, ISO 10303-242,
    industrial automation systems and integration,
    Product data representation and exchange,
    Part 242: Application protocol:
    Managed model-based 3D engineering.

    More information on support of STEP in PDF 2.0:

    Product Representation Compact (PRC) File Format, ISO 14379

    PRC provides mechanisms for the main constructs of 3D CAD models.

    PRC is an accurate, highly compressible format optimized to
    support different representations of a 3D CAD model.
    PRC was developed from inception as a file format
    capable of representing 3D model data from all of
    the popular CAD authoring applications.

    PRC data files contain product structure data and can
    optionally contain precise 3D geometry, visualization,
    metadata and Product Manufacturing Information (PMI).

    3D models can be stored within PDF as the model's exact and
    accurate BREP geometry, tessellated data or both.
    Because of this, PRC models can be both visualized by people and
    exported from a PDF for use in Computer Aided Design (CAD);
    Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and
    Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) systems.


    PRC is the best format to use for representing
    three dimensional technical data in a PDF document.

    PRC offers the following advantages over U3D:

    • Data structures for CAD data including assemblies,
      precise geometry, tessellation, PMI, text, annotations, etc.
      U3D is limited to mesh data.

    • Better compression than U3D.

    • International standard (ISO 14739)


    PRC is well suited for communicating technical data for
    most general engineering processes, including:

    • Reporting

    • Design review

    • Quality planning and reports

    • CAE reports

    • Supply chain collaboration

    • Training

    • Archiving

    Varying levels of compression can be applied to the 3D CAD data
    when it is converted to the PRC format using a proper 3D PDF Converter.

    The 3D data stored in PRC format in a PDF is interoperable
    with many industry applications for CAM and CAE.

    Key features:

    • Tessellated meshes

    • Precise B-rep geometry

    • Product Structure

    • Product manufacturing information (PMI)

    • Properties / Metadata

    • Highly compressible

    • Animation through Javascript

    Universal 3D (U3D) File Format, ECMA 363

    Universal 3D (U3D) is a standard for a compressed binary
    file format for 3D computer graphics data that can be
    embedded in PDF documents since PDF 1.7 (ISO 32000-1).

    U3D is no longer in active development.

    U3D was designed as a general-purpose visualization format
    with features such as keyframe animation.
    The format is optimized to store triangle meshes,
    lines and points with hierarchical structure, metadata,
    color and texture.


    Unlike PRC, U3D lacks the CAD specific data structures for
    geometry, topology, text and PMI.
    In PDF, U3D is best suited to animation in 3D PDF.


    • Technical publications

    • Marketing Materials

    The U3D format is natively supported by the PDF format and
    3D objects in U3D format can be inserted into PDF documents and
    interactively visualized by PDF viewers.

    Key features:

    • Tessellated meshes

    • Structure

    • Light sources

    • Textures

    • Animation (keyframe)

3D PDF - Logo

3D PDF showcases

    The demonstration 3D PDF files below are
    provided by PDF Association members.

    These showcases illustrate the broad range of
    workflows and use cases for PDF as a
    delivery-vehicle for 3D representations.

    Demonstrations are in the following categories:

    • Bill of Materials (BOM)

    • Change request

    • Product data quality (PDQ)

    • Service documentation

    • Technical Data Package (TDP)

    • Technical documentation

    • Work in progress

    • Work instructions

    Explore and evaluate all 3D PDF files:

Archiving of 3D Documents

3D PDF - Logo + PDF/A - Icon

    Archiving of 3D PDF using PDF/A-3 or PDF/A-4

    PDF isn’t just a container for 2D and 3D information;
    it’s also an archival solution for final-form document content.

    PDF/A-4, a subset of PDF 2.0 supporting long term preservation
    of PDF files, allows 3D content and associated JavaScript,
    making it a viable solution for archiving manufacturing content.

    • Background:
    • 3D is a complex world of its own.
      In order to create 3D models, 3D programs are needed,
      like Catia, AutoCAD, etc.

      Each industry has their own set of preferred tools,
      solutions and document/file formats.

      Basically there is not an agreed common exchange format
      between these tools (i.e. not the same as the PDF format
      that acts as a digital exchange format/"digital paper").

      PDF 2.0 (ISO 32000-2) supports two 3D formats directly
      within PDF’s framework for 3D constructs on PDF pages:

      The first 3D format is:

      The second 3D format is:

      Both formats can be embedded in PDF making it more user friendly,
      especially considering that free PDF reader software tools are
      available to view them or interact with these formats.

      More general tools will be available to handle certain format aspects,
      such as syntax validation of 3D models, reading and writing metadata
      in 3D models, …

    • Recommendations on how to manage and archive 3D documents.
    • First and foremost you have to clear out the format in which
      the 3D information is present; the PRC or the U3D format?

      Options for archiving 3D documents:
      Next step is to decide on which PDF standard format
      to use to embed the 3D information:

      • PDF/A-3

        (based on PDF 1.7, 2012), or

      • PDF/A-4

        (based on PDF 2.0, 2020) (newer)

      Both formats, PDF/A-3 and PDF/A-4, allows embedded
      attachments in PDF/A format or another format.
      However no guarantee (for reusability) for something that is
      embedded, but which is not itself PDF-based information.

      For many years the PDF/E (ISO 24517:2008) served to provide
      an archival model for engineering content including 3D;
      representation of constructions drawings and diagrams with
      moving 3D models and usually derived from CAD files.

      The initial plan to define a new flavor,
      PDF/E-2 based on PDF 2.0, was cancelled in 2018
      to instead make it a part of PDF/A-4.


      • PDF/A-4e makes it possible to mend 3D models in
        PRC or U3D formats inside PDF/A-4

      • PDF/A-4 is explicitly positioned
        as a standard for 3D archiving

    The Value of PDF for Archiving of 3D PDF

    PDF is the only open format capable of archiving of
    3D PDF engineering data, documents, and records.

3D PDF - Logo

3D PDF Tools
    "3D PDF-Ready" Software Tools:

    Many "3D PDF-Ready" tools are available to support
    all aspects of 3D PDF production environments, including:

    • 3D PDF Creation
    • 3D PDF compliant files can be created
      directly from professional software tools.

      The current 3D PDF specifications are
      well established and mature as far as software developers
      are concerned, among them:

PDF/VCR Industry Working Group - Icon

ISO 16613-1:2017 (PDF/VCR)
international standard for Variable Content Replacement

Approved international standard since 2017

The PDF/VCR standard builds on PDF/X-4
to provide support for variable content replacement.

The use of PDF/VCR is low.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF/VCR:

PDF Association - PDF/VCR Industry Working Group

The Purpose of PDF/VCR

    PDF/VCR enables variable data printing applications
    using PDF template-based variable content substitution and
    a framework for in-RIP variable content merging.

    PDF/VCR (ISO 16613)

    In 2017 ISO published the standard
    "ISO 16613-1:2017 Graphic technology - Variable content replacement
    Part 1: Using PDF/X for variable content replacement (PDF/VCR-1)".

    PDF/VCR enables variable data printing applications
    using PDF template-based variable content substitution where:

    • a PDF template file containing pages with
      variable content substitution fields (placeholders)
      is delivered ahead of a print production run and may be
      reused across multiple print production runs, and

    • PDF-based variable data substitution content is provided
      during running print production and merged with the PDF
      template to produce final form variable content page output.

    PDF/VCR (PDF for variable content replacement),
    is a set of base technical requirements for a PDF template file format,
    a PDF-based variable data substitution content format and a framework
    for in-RIP variable content merging.

    PDF/VCR is pretty much similar to:

    The difference here is that the variable data is coming from a CSV file and
    is applicable to high performance real data printing, for example:
    read data from a credit card and use it when printing the envelope.

    The PDF/VCR base technical requirements do not include
    writer and processor conformance, however ISO 16613-1:2017
    also defines the PDF/VCR-1 conformance level which is based on
    the PDF/VCR base technical requirements and defines requirements for:

    • the PDF/VCR-1 template file format;

    • the PDF/VCR-1 data sequence format,
      a variable data substitution content format;

    • a PDF/VCR-1 writer,
      a software application which can generate PDF/VCR-1 template files;

    • a PDF/VCR-1 data provider,
      a software application which can generate PDF/VCR-1 data sequences;

    • a PDF/VCR-1 processor,
      a software application which can perform substitution (replacement)
      of PDF/VCR-1 template placeholder objects with substitution content
      provided within a PDF/VCR-1 data sequence.

    The use of PDF/VCR is low.

PDF Association, PDF/VT Industry Working Group - Icon

ISO 16612-3:2020 (PDF/VT)
international standard for Personalized Print / Variable Data

Approved international standard since 2010

The PDF/VT-3 standard builds on PDF/X-6
to provide support for the PDF 2.0 imaging model
in the variable and transactional printing context.

The use of PDF/VT is low.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF/VT:

PDF Association - PDF/VT Industry Working Group

The Purpose of PDF/VT

    PDF/VT is based on PDF format to support variable data printing.

    PDF/VT is optimized for the specific needs of
    Variable (“V”) and Transactional (“T”) workflows.

    PDF/VT efficiently addresses the requirements of modern
    Variable Data Printing (VDP), bringing all the well-known
    advantages of PDF workflow to the world of personalized print.

    PDF/VT (ISO 16612-2 and 16612-3)

    In 2010 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
    published a new standard called
    “ISO 16612-2:2010 - Graphic technology - Variable data exchange
    Using PDF/X-4 and PDF/X-5 (PDF/VT-1 and PDF/VT-2)”.

    It’s designed specifically to support robust delivery and production
    of modern variable data print jobs.

    ISO 16612-3 (PDF/VT-3) was published at the end of 2020.

PDF Association, Twenty Years of PDF/X, from PDF via PDF/X-1, PDF/X3, PDF/X-4 and PDF/X-5 to PDF/X6

Standards for variable data transactional publishing
based on PDF/X - PDF/VT

    By building on PDF/X, and therefore on PDF,
    these standards enable the use of many of the features that
    graphic designers have come to expect to be able to use
    for work in commercial print, publication, etc., and therefore
    wished to use for complimentary advertising in direct mail and
    transpromo campaigns, and in labels and packaging.

    By also including document metadata that can convey
    the designer/ purchaser’s requirements, it allows for more
    complete automation of production in support of today’s
    increasingly complex and demanding requirements around
    page count and separate components to be delivered together.

    PDF/VT requirements and conformance levels

    These PDF/VT standards define four conformance levels,
    reflecting both different use cases for variable data,
    and changes in the print industry over time.

    • PDF/VT-1
    • All content for a print job is included in a single PDF file,
      which must also conform to PDF/X-4 (ISO 15930-7:2010).

      The vast majority of current PDF/VT production is PDF/VT-1,
      and until the publication of PDF/VT-3 at the end of 2020,
      this was the only PDF/VT standard recommend for workflows
      unless all parties in that workflow agree to use one of the others.

    • PDF/VT-2
    • Designed to support a "chunking" workflow to allow
      something almost indistinguishable from streaming,
      that is where the first pages of the job are being printed before
      the last ones have been created by the composition engine.

      It does this by providing a method whereby large assets
      such as images that are used multiple times
      (for example for many recipients each)
      can be saved into a single PDF file, known as a target file.

      A series of "chunks", each defining a range of pages to be
      printed and saved as a PDF/VT-2 file, is then produced.
      Each PDF/VT-2 file includes references to the assets
      in the target file(s), which means that those large assets
      don’t need to be repeated in every PDF/VT-2 file.
      PDF/VT-2 is not widely implemented or used.

    • PDF/VT-2s
    • A variant of PDF/VT-2 where both the target files
      containing re-used assets and the PDF/VT-2 files
      themselves are wrapped into a single MIME stream.
      The intention is to simplify the delivery of a stream for printing
      where there isn’t a shared file system accessible to both
      the submission tool and the receiving digital front end.
      PDF/VT-2s are even less widely implemented than
      PDF/VT-2 and should be avoided.

    • PDF/VT-3
    • Was published in late 2020 and is based on PDF/X-6,
      which, in turn, is based on PDF 2.0.

      PDF/VT-3 allows:

      • both fully self-contained PDF/X-6 models
        as well as external data-dependent
        PDF/X-6p and PDF/X-6n workflows

      • use of graphic object definitions to specify
        graphical content data only once, independent of
        the number of times it is referenced in the file,
        and better color management of jobs that are
        printed on multiple different media

      • unification of PDF generation for multi-channel delivery
        with excellent accessibility capabilities

      • including hinting information allowing for a
        variety of processing optimisation strategies

    Just like PDF/X-6, PDF/ VT-3 is expected to become
    the most commonly used PDF/VT standard over time,
    replacing PDF/VT-1.

    The Value of PDF/VT

    Just like PDF/X, the real value of PDF/VT is more in simplifying
    communication of requirements and best practice than in
    defining anything significantly different from
    what can be achieved in baseline PDF.

    In a sense it relieves the graphic designer and composition tool operator
    of the need to consider some of these constraints when they make a file;
    just select “PDF/VT” in the menu when generating the file for print and
    it will be done for you.

    But the PDF/VT standard concentrates on providing support for
    predictable and repeatable output and for automation;
    it does not focus on how the desired elements should be written
    into that PDF file in order to maximize the efficiency of processing.

    So using PDF/VT is a very good way of improving the PDF document
    delivery workflow in many ways and is definitely recommended.

    But it’s not the whole story.
    There are many things that users can do to optimize
    the processing of those jobs as well and to help
    avoid last-minute problems.

    Key advantages of PDF/VT

    Using PDF/VT files instead of pragmatically defined “optimized PDF” files
    provides a number of distinct benefits for both creators and printers:

    • PDF/VT builds on the work done for static artwork delivery
      for both conventional and digital print in the PDF/X family
      of standards, which have become an extremely common way
      of enforcing best practices and simplifying the creation of
      preflight profiles etc.

    • PDF/VT provides the framework for a composition engine
      to include a hierarchical tree of metadata in the file,
      to encapsulate the intents and expectations of
      the designer/purchaser.

    • A PDF/VT file may include hints and steering information
      that can be used in for processing of an optimized workflow.

    • PDF/VT is portable.
      It provides a reliable container for blind exchange of
      final-form, graphically rich, variable content.

    • PDF/VT takes full advantage of the PDF imaging model for
      printing graphically rich personalised communication
      (e.g. variable transparency effects).

    • PDF/VT enables caching for recurring elements in VDP jobs.

    • PDF/VT can be preflighted with standard off-the-shelf tools.

    • PDF/VT enables reliable proofing and distributed
      review/approval workflows prior to printing,
      using readily available PDF viewing software.

    • PDF/VT enables predictable color for VDP jobs,
      based on moderna ICC color management.

    • PDF/VT provides a robust metadata infrastructure to enable
      sophisticated/dynamic/granular runtime controls for
      VDP print production (e.g. filtering, rules-based imposition,
      audit trail, barcoding, checkpoint re-start).

    • PDF/VT i device-independent and object-oriented,
      and enables VDP jobs to be dynamically repurposed,
      refactored, or retargeted to different presses.

    • PDF/VT benefits direct marketing campaigns,
      and also enhances management of high-volume
      print runs (e.g. "TransPromo").

    Designing Optimized PDF/VT Files
    for Efficiency is Important

    The use of PDF is ubiquitous across most sectors of the print industry.

    The use of variable data to add personalization with variable text,
    graphic, and image content is also expanding across multiple sectors
    of the print industry, from its roots in transactional, through commercial,
    wide format, labels, packaging, and into industrial print.

    The growth of PDF and variable content is one of
    the key reasons for the adoption of digital printing.
    Digital printing can help everyone in the design and
    print supply chain increase their profitability.

    Increasing profitability requires that digital presses are
    kept running at full engine speed, and that is where
    design decisions can make a difference.

    The way in which a variable data PDF file is designed and
    constructed can then have a significant influence on
    the efficiency of digital presses.

    Avoiding print production workflow with inefficient PDF files,
    boils down to a very simple maxim:

    • Don’t ask a workflow processing component
      to do more than it has to!

    PDF for Static Production vs Variable Content Jobs

    For static print production the process of saving
    a well-designed PDF file for print is important,
    requiring attention to the settings available
    in the design tool.

    Regardless of the print environment, analog or digital,
    there is value in creating an efficient PDF file.
    The faster a file is processesed the more efficient
    the workflow can be.

    Variable content jobs may be built from pages that use
    a template with variable data, like name, address and
    billing amount or discount offer amount.

    The pages look the same and share a design language,
    but the content of pages may be variable and unique;
    as a job,this is a variable content job.

    These types of jobs place additional demands on
    the processing power available because each page
    is different and must be processed separately.

    While minor inefficiencies in a job may only add
    a few milliseconds to the processing of each page,
    when multiplied by the number of pages in the job,
    the result can show up as a delay that grows to
    minutes and sometimes hours.

    There are often many ways of achieving the same
    visual appearance which can vary significantly in
    the amount of processing required to print them.

    Sometimes the most efficient method for the print company
    requires a little more prepress work for the designer.

    Sometimes there’s a win-win where improved print performance
    can be gained by making a few changes that also result in a PDF file
    that can be shared more efficiently on the web and on mobile devices.

    While some optimization is under the direct control of
    the graphic and document composition tool vendors,
    there are steps the designer can take on while in prepress mode.

    For instance, by understanding what options design tools
    (layout, templating, or other software) offer also for preflighting.
    Catching obvious preflight errors early in the design process can save
    valuable time in downstream process / for the production team.

    callas software blog on:

PDF/VT - Application Notes

    The PDF/VT Application Notes discuss topics that aid
    implementers of PDF/VT workflow tools and demonstrate
    the various design features of the PDF/VT file format.

    Recommended reading:
    "Best Practice in creating PDF files for Variable Data Printing (VDP)":

    All PDF/VT developers and designers will benefit from these guides
    on how to create efficient and optimized PDF files appropriate for
    today’s high-speed production requirements.
    (For download of the guides, click on the pictures below)

    • Developer Edition
    • Helps developers with the information they need to ensure that
      PDF files can be processed (rendered and printed) as quickly
      as possible without compromising their visual appearance.

PDF Association, Best Practice in creating PDF files for Variable Data Printing (VDP), Developer Edition - Picture

(September 2, 2022)

    • Designer Edition
    • Helps designers, composition tool operators or software vendors,
      to avoid creating inefficient PDF files.

PDF Association, Best Practice in creating PDF files for Variable Data Printing (VDP), Designer Edition - Picture

(September 2, 2022)

PDF/VT Tools
    "PDF/VT-Ready" Software Tools:

    Many "PDF/VT-Ready" tools are available to support
    all aspects of PDF/VT production environments, including:

    • PDF/VT Creation
    • PDF/VT compliant files can be created directly from
      professional page layout packages.

      The current PDF/VT-3 specification is supported
      by software developers and vendors, among them:

PDF Association, PDF/X Industry Working Group - Icon

ISO 15930 (PDF/X)
international standard for
prepress digital data and graphics exchange

Approved international standard since 2001

Please also view the free booklet:

"PDF/X in a Nutshell, PDF for Printing - The ISO standard"

The use of PDF/X is very high.

Follow/participate in the work with the future development of PDF/X:

PDF Association - PDF/X Industry Working Group

PDF Association, Twenty Years of PDF/X - Banner

December 1, 2021, marks the twentieth anniversary of
the publication of the first ISO PDF/X standard.

    Since then PDF/X has heavily impacted the print publishing industry
    and the development of other PDF-based standards.

PDF Association, Twenty Years of PDF/X, from PDF via PDF/X-1, PDF/X3, PDF/X-4 and PDF/X-5 to PDF/X6

The purpose of PDF/X

    The purpose of PDF/X is to facilitate graphics exchange ("blind exchange").

    In this context "blind exchange" refers to a common standard for
    both the creator (design individual ) and the receiver (print shop)
    and everyone between.

    In the early days of the digital graphics workflow era software and hardware
    vendors within the graphics industry used own proprietary formats for
    data exchange which caused overhead and didn't scale well.

    Today, PDF/X is the accepted global format and cornerstone for all
    graphics arts workflows. It is endorsed, supported and used by all
    industry players; by small creative shops, by large global agencies,
    by software vendors, by manufactures of heavy printing machinery,...

    Core principals of PDF/X

    PDF/X was designed to constrain PDF files in order to cater for
    specific use-cases in the graphics/print industry.

    Therefore PDF/X has a series of printing-related requirements
    which do not apply to standard PDF files.

    One principle of PDF/X is that conforming files must be complete;
    fully self-contained, and everything on a PDF page has to be printable.

    Nothing may appear on a PDF/X page that is either:

    • not printable at all (e.g. video), or where

    • print output is not fully defined (e.g. font not embedded)

    These requirements apply in all parts and conformance levels of PDF/X:

    • An Output Intent must be present that uses an ICC profile
      to specify the intended printing conditions
      (print device type, paper type) when colors (or shades of grey)
      are defined.

    • Spot colors may only be used if they have an alternate color,
      and this alternate color must be the same of all occurrences of
      the respective spot color.

    • Fonts must be embedded (either fully embedded,
      or as an embedded subset in which all characters
      used in the text are present).

    • Images must be present in the PDF
      (no external graphical content is allowed)

    • No password protection of any type

    • No transfer curves (since they modify appearance of colors).

    • No alternative images (e.g. no low-resolution alternates)

    • If the bleed zone is defined,
      the Bleed-Box must be outside the printable area (the TrimBox).

    • No use of LZW compression.

    • No annotations in the print area.

    • No audio, video or 3D annotations.

    • No form fields of JavaScript.

    • No embedded files.

    • PDF metadata must indicate whether the PDF has been trapped, or not.

    • PDF metadata must claim conformance to PDF/X and to
      which part and conformance level of the PDF/X standard.

    What is not in PDF/X

    PDF/X only defines the general requirements for a reliable exchange of
    prepress data; the ISO standard self does not specify the quality requirement.

    These requirements are typically different for each

    • printing process:
    • like sheetfed offset, web offset, newspaper printing,
      flexo printing, screen printing, etc.


    • markets segments
    • like magazines, newspapers, art books, etc.

    For example, PDF/X does not define a minimum resolution for images.
    It simply requires that images are embedded
    (since external references are not allowed).

    Although these provisions are important,
    the PDF/X ISO Committee made an early decision not to attempt
    to include quality requirements for every PDF/X use case.
    Among other benefits, this approach makes quality requirements easier
    to update than if they were part of the official ISO standard.

    The task of defining quality requirements was instead taken over by
    The Ghent Workgroup.

PDF/X Requirements
PDF Association, Twenty Years of PDF/X, Confused? Which PDF/X Standard to Choose?

    PDF/X has expanded into a family of standards supporting a
    wide variety of print production workflows and use cases.

    Each part of PDF/X builds on the previous part
    providing flexibility while ensuring reliable exchange:

    • PDF/X-1a: Complete exchange
    • PDF/X-1a was the first and most restrictive
      member of the PDF/X family.
      PDF/X-1a aims for “complete exchange”;
      a single file must contain all information needed for
      for printing the document as intended by the sender.

      Printing a PDF/X-1a file must be possible
      without requiring prior color correction.
      Therefore, print elements can only use CMYK,
      greyscale or spot colors; no RGB or
      device-independent color spaces are permitted.

    • PDF/X-3: Color management
    • In PDF/X-3, graphics can use CMYK, greyscale,
      RGB, Lab and ICC based color spaces.
      It requires, however, that device color spaces may be
      used only if the same color space is used for
      the ICC profile in the Output Intent.

    • PDF/X-2: Partial exchange
    • The strict requirement of including all resources inside
      a single file is not appropriate for every workflow.
      PDF/X-2 addresses this need; it allows the use of
      proxy elements referencing external graphics.

      Otherwise, PDF/X-2 is the same as PDF/X-3,
      so it allows color managed elements next to spot colors
      and device colors prepared for the specified output intent.

    • PDF/X-4: Transparency
    • The previous PDF/X variants do not support the features of
      more modern (beyond PDF 1.4) versions of PDF.
      By 2008, it was time to bring PDF/X up to date
      with current PDF specifications.

      PDF/X-4 is based on PDF 1.6, published in 2004.
      This specification added support for new features, including layers,
      JPEG2000, OpenType fonts, and 16-bit images.

      In addition, PDF/X-4 allows the use of transparency,
      a PDF 1.4 feature forbidden in PDF/X until PDF/X-4.

      PDF/X-4 includes two variations known as “conformance levels”:

      • PDF/X-4
      • Inherits the rules of PDF/X-3 for complete exchange
        in color managed workflows, with the requirement of
        always embedding the output intent ICC profile, and

      • PDF/X-4p
      • Provides a form of partial exchange;
        it allows the ICC profile to be maintained externally.
        This ensures better efficiency in workflows where
        many files share the same output intent,
        or where embedding the ICC profile would
        substantially increase the file size.

    • PDF/X-5: More flexibility
    • PDF/X-5 is a set of three conformance levels,
      all geared towards different workflows.

      Each conformance level expands on PDF/X-4 or PDF/X-4p:

      • PDF/X-5n
      • Allows for n-colorant color spaces that are used where
        the traditional four print process colors (CMYK) are not enough.

        n-colorant color spaces may be required to enable a larger
        color gamut (e.g. CMYK plus Green, Violet, Orange) to allow
        for more accurate skin tones, pastel colors or the like.

        Another use of PDF/X-5n is in packaging,
        in which certain product-specific spot colors
        are also used for imagery as process colors.

      • PDF/X-5g
      • Extends the PDF/X-4 standard with the ability
        to use external raster and vector graphics.

        Like the older PDF/X-2, a PDF/X-5g file can contain
        temporary placeholders that reference an external resource.

      • PDF/X-5pg
      • Takes PDF/X-5g one step further.
        It offers the same method for external graphics as PDF/X-5g,
        and combines it with the PDF/X-4p’s option of the output
        intent referenced as an external ICC profile.

    • PDF/X-6 (ISO 15930-9:2020):
    • PDF/X-6 is building on ISO 32000-2, better known as PDF 2.0.

      Incorporates all of the features and benefits of
      the PDF/X‐1a, PDF/X‐3 and PDF/X‐4 specifications
      while adding support for new features in PDF 2.0

      PDF/X-6 relaxes some requirements.
      New to PDF 2.0 are page level Output Intents and
      better support for multi channel print color spaces
      (more channels than just CMYK) as is increasingly
      used in packaging or on digital printing devices.

      Annotations may be used within the print area
      if they have a printable appearance that complies with
      the same requirements as any other page content.

      The new optional conformance levels in PDF/X-6
      (conformance levels n and p) accommodate a wider
      variety of process optimizations and workflows as they
      allow ICC profiles to be maintained externally.

      For the first time PDF/X-6 permits PDF/X files
      to have annotations, including digital signatures,
      form fields and videos, reducing complexity in
      multi-channel workflows.

      PDF/X-6 Application Notes.
      Intended for users and implementers of
      PDF/X-6, PDF/X-6p, and PDF/X-6n:

      Written by two members of ISO Commission TC130/TF2/WG2,
      which is responsible for the PDF/X specifications.
      Since this document is not an official ISO document,
      it has been published by the American APTech
      (Association for PRINT Technologies).

    PDF/X: Users/Industry segments

    Which PDF/X version to use?

    For PDF/X-based workflow it’s critical that the chosen PDF/X version
    fits the capabilities and objectives of that workflow.

    If you have a modern workflow and output rip,
    then you are more than capable of handling a PDF/X-4 file.

    In an older workflow system that has difficulty digesting
    some of the newer PDF functionality such as transparency,
    it’s probably not a good idea to attempt adopting PDF/X-4;
    an older PDF/X version is probably more suitable.

    Best is to first evaluate the own workflow for PDF/X-4 readiness;
    the Ghent Workgroup Output Suite is a free dedicated test suite.

    When testing, all applications within the workflow must be considered,
    including (but not limited to): imposition software, color servers,
    ink saving software, trapping software, and output RIPs.

    User segments
    • Designers, creators and advertising agencies
    • The benefit for a design company in working with PDF/X
      is that it’s easier than coping with a myriad of PDF creation
      settings from different printing companies and suppliers.

      The output settings needed to create valid PDF/X files are
      pre-configured into most professional page layout and
      design applications, so generating a PDF/X file is just
      a matter of selecting the required PDF/X version,
      and ensuring the file is compliant after creation.

      If an artwork creator supplies a conforming PDF/X file,
      then any print service provider should have the tools
      and knowledge to be able to process and print
      that file without problems.

    • Magazines and newspapers
    • Magazines and newspapers often integrate content
      produced elsewhere (e.g., advertising) into their products.
      Typically, these publishers produce very detailed specifications
      on how a PDF file should be created and checked
      before they receive it.

      Due to the sheer volume of content they receive and deliver,
      and the deadlines they work to, they normally expect any
      incoming advertising files to be correct when delivered.

      The production for these types of publications
      is split into two distinct areas:

      • receiving files for advertising
      • PDF files of advertising content are
        received from external suppliers;
        these files are checked and then incorporated
        with editorial content in a layout application to
        create the final pages of the publication.

      • delivering final pages for print
      • The completed publication is exported
        as a PDF file and sent to a print site.

      Until today, most newspapers and magazine publishers have
      adopted PDF/X-1a and in turn deliver their final pages to
      the printer as PDF/X-1a files.

      Why haven’t periodical publishers embraced
      the newer versions of PDF/X, such as PDF/X-4?
      The answer is straightforward; their current workflows
      are working predictably and correctly.

      A key driver for the change to PDF/X-4 is that PDF/X-1a files
      are not very useful when it comes to re-purposing content.

      However, newspaper and magazine publishers increasingly
      need to develop cross-media content that’s optimized for
      smart phones, tablets or online publication.
      This requirement, along with the gradual acceptance of
      modern production techniques, is driving the newspaper
      and magazine publishing industry towards PDF/X-4.

    • Commercial print and digital printing
    • For many companies PDF/X-1a was the standard
      they used for a long time for the same reasons as
      the periodical publishers discussed earlier:
      predictability and responsibility.

      When PDF/X-1 was first released, live transparency caused
      a major problem for printing companies, as their output RIPs
      and workflows were not capable of handling it correctly.

      However, thanks to PDF/X-4 in 2008 provided support for
      transparency, today’s commercial and digital printers
      are switching to instead use PDF/X-4.

      If you have a modern workflow and output RIP,
      then you are more than capable of handling a PDF/X-4 file.

      One aspect of PDF/X-4 that often causes concern,
      particularly in sheetfed and web offset, is the fact that
      color spaces such as RGB and Lab are allowed.

      Many printers are not confident in handling files that contain
      these color spaces, and prefer to handle only CMYK and
      and spot color based files.

      It is, however, perfectly possible to use PDF/X-4 based
      preflight configurations that forbid these color spaces
      (i.e., permitting only a subset of PDF/X-4).

      The newer Ghent Workgroup Preflight Technical Specifications
      are all based on PDF/X-4.

      In digital printing, particularly with output engines that have
      large color gamuts, RGB based files are beneficial, as they
      can use the full color gamut available in the press rather
      than constraining the color gamut to that of a conventional
      CMYK based process.

    • Large format printing
    • PDF/X-1a, PDF/X-3 and PDF/X-4 are all relevant to
      large format printing, but there are certain aspects of
      each that should be recognized.

      The choice of format will depend on the type of work,
      the workflow and knowledge of the printing company in question.

      One attribute of a PDF file that can be a requirement for
      large format printing is the ‘user unit’. A PDF file
      (prior to PDF 2.0 which allows pages measurable in kilometers)
      has a technical size limitation of 200 x 200 inches,
      which is fine for most commercial printing,
      but when you want to print a poster that covers
      the side of a building, this limitation becomes an issue.

      To overcome this size limitation the PDF 1.6 specification
      included a function called ‘UserUnit’ which effectively enables
      the size of the PDF to be scaled by a multiplication factor,
      allowing the creation of larger page sizes.

      The PDF/X-4 specification is based on PDF 1.6,
      so if it’s a requirement that PDF files are supplied
      at their correct size, then PDF/X-4 would be needed.

      However very often in this market, files are supplied
      at a smaller size than the final required size,
      and are enlarged on output.

      Digital large format devices very often have large
      multi-color ink sets to deliver a wide color gamut.

      Some devices have up to 12 inks to maximize
      the quality of printing, and can produce most available
      spot colors (excepting special inks such as metallic).

      The output RIPs on these devices often have very sophisticated
      color management functionality in order to work with
      these ink sets, and it makes sense that PDF files
      being printed should maximize this capability.

      In this case PDF/X-3 or PDF/X-4 can be useful as
      they allow color-managed color spaces such as Lab,
      CalRGB or use of an embedded ICC profile.

      When investigating PDF/X for large format,
      a key consideration is the output RIP driving the printer.
      There are a large variety of different large format RIPs
      available, with different quality and functionality.

      Thorough testing is advisable to ensure the output of
      the required PDF/X level is correct and predictable,
      before implementing a PDF/X based workflow.

      A useful tool for testing is the Ghent Workgroup Output Suite.

    • Labels and packaging printing
    • Label and packaging differs from other methods of
      print production for several reasons.

      A key distinction is that the size of the final job is often not a
      square or a rectangle, so it cannot be defined by a PDF page box.

      Additionally, in packaging, the use of multiple spot color inks rather
      than just CMYK is very common, with spot colors frequently used
      in image separations as well as in text and vector graphics.

      Additionally, within modern packaging production,
      extended gamut printing is becoming more prevalent,
      especially with digital devices.

      Extended gamut printing uses a fixed ink set of CMYK, plus
      additional spot colors (orange, violet and green are typical)
      to produce a very large color gamut, allowing a large range
      of spot colors to be produced without the need to run
      individual spot color inks.

      All PDF/X formats require that an output intent is defined
      that uses an ICC profile to characterize the intended output.
      Output intents use normally CMYK ICC profiles, but for
      PDF/X-4 or PDF/X-3 that can also be RGB or even Gray profiles.

      To fully support multi-channel workflows with PDF/X,
      a multi-channel color profile is required.
      Multi-channel profiles are not supported by any of
      the previously mentioned PDF/X standards.

      The only PDF/X version that allows for multi-channel
      profile support is PDF/X-5n.

      As of this writing, 2017, PDF/X usage in the label and
      packaging market is not widespread, but with PDF 2.0 and
      the upcoming PDF/X-6, functionality will be added to
      make adoption easier and more beneficial.

PDF/X Tools
    "PDF/X-Ready" Software Tools:

    Many "PDF/X-Ready" tools are available to support
    all aspects of PDF/X production environments, including:

    • PDF/X Creation
    • PDF/X files can be created directly from
      professional page layout packages.

      When exporting to PDF, the user can simply select
      the required PDF/X-1, PDF/X-3, or PDF/X-4 version and
      the software will guide the user, allowing only configuration
      settings that will produce a valid PDF/X file.

      It is not possible to directly export a valid PDF/X file using
      the output options within office applications such as
      Microsoft Word or Apache OpenOffice.

      However, it is possible to export a PDF file that can then be
      converted to PDF/X using an additional application capable
      of correcting the file to meet one of the PDF/X standards.

      These solutions can be desktop or server-based,
      depending on the volume of files that need to be processed.

      These solutions generally begin by checking PDF/X conformance,
      and subsequent correction to PDF/X is part of this process.

    • PDF/X Conformance and Correction
    • Quality control and PDF/X conformance are a
      key part of the production process.

      It doesn’t matter if you are supplying files to
      a print service provider, or processing PDF files
      within a print company; quality control is paramount.

      Failure to ensure that a PDF file meets the required standard
      can result in missed deadlines, wasted time, material and extra cost.
      The later a problem with a PDF file is detected,
      the more expensive that problem is to fix.

      The graphic arts industry uses a specific term
      for this quality control process: "Preflight".

      A print service provider will thoroughly preflight/check a
      PDF file before it enters the production process to ensure
      it is of sufficient quality for the required printed product.

      Most PDF preflight solutions offer the opportunity for a
      Print Service Provider PSP) to correct a lot of the issues
      that can arise within PDF files.
      This can be done as part of the service the PSP provides
      to its customer, or can be chargeable.

      In newspaper or magazine production, it is not uncommon
      for publications to insist on a "print ready" PDF/X file.
      These publications are not willing to take the responsibility for any
      potential issues that may arise if they correct the file themselves.

      PDF/X preflight and correction solutions are available
      in several different types of applications.

    • Desktop solutions
    • For users who have a relatively low number of files
      to process, a manual application will probably be
      the most appropriate.

    • Server-based solutions
    • For users who must check and correct hundreds or thousands
      of PDF/X files a day, hot-folder driven and server-based
      preflight solutions are available.

      These applications are often also available as
      Command Line Interface (CLI) software capable of
      driving the quality control process programmatically.

      These allow high volume automated production,
      and can be driven by external systems using
      database connections or XML job tickets to allow
      the preflight check to be specific to the customer’s
      order or advertising booking.

    • PDF workflow and output
    • PDF/X conformance and preflight are just two of
      the prepress production processes that a PDF/X file
      must go through to be successfully printed.

      When working with PDF/X, it’s important that all pieces
      and processes in a print production workflow system are
      configured appropriately to handle the PDF/X version in use;
      it is not sufficient to just use a PDF/X preflight check.

      Many workflow vendors provide data sheets explaining how
      workflows must be configured to handle PDF/X files correctly.

    • Programming libraries
    • Programming libraries allow developers to integrate
      PDF/X functionality into their own applications without
      having to develop the technology from scratch.

      Some desktop or server-based products are also
      available as programming libraries.
      With these "Software Development Kits",
      companies can add PDF/X functionality with minimal effort,
      and bring solutions to market very quickly.

      These libraries offer PDF/X creation,
      PDF/X preflight and/or correction.

    The current PDF/X specifications are well established and mature
    as far as software developers are concerned, among them:

Ghent Workgroup - Logo

Ghent Workgroup (GWG)

Best Practices for
Print, Publishing & Packaging Workflows

This is the Ghent Workgroup

    Take a cross-section of the international
    graphic arts community’s best minds and have
    them work together to develop best practices
    for the benefit of the profession worldwide.

Purpose of the Ghent Workgroup

    To create practical workflow tools that make your
    daily production tasks easier and faster for publishing,
    packaging, wide format and industrial print processes:

    • Create specifications and best practices.

    • Help educate the graphic arts market;
      translating deep technical knowledge to people
      who need to use it in practice in the field.

Benefits of the Ghent Workgroup Today

PDF/X - logo

    Driven by industry trends, end users are able to formalize
    implementation of PDF/X standards for data exchange via GWG.

    The ISO Standard PDF/X only defines the general
    requirements for a reliable exchange of prepress data;
    the standard itself does not specify quality requirements.

    These requirements are different for each printing process
    (sheetfed offset, web offset, newspaper printing, flexo printing,
    screen printing, etc.) and market segments (magazines,
    newspaper, art books, etc.).

    The Ghent Workgroup took over the task of
    defining quality requirements.

    PDF Standards FAQ:

    • This document/User Guide was written to clarify some of
      the "PDF Standards" language you might encounter,
      demystify some of the curious statements you might hear
      and provide pointers to help you navigate
      the wonderful world of PDF standards:

    • User Guide: PDF Standards FAQ (Jan. 25, 2022)

    The most important PDF/X flavors are currently (2021):

    • PDF/X-1a

    • PDF/X-4

    • PDF/X-6 (based on PDF 2.0)

    Which PDF/X should I use?

Why are you still using a 20-year-old standard?
Stop that!

Ghent Workgroup Webinar, January 23, 2024

    Recent figures suggest that at least 50% of the printers out there
    are still actively using the PDF/X-1a standard when requesting
    PDF files from clients (or creating them internally themselves).

    Did you know that PDF/X-1a is a more than 20-year-old standard?

    Is your car 20 years old? Your computer? Your phone?
    Probably not!

    Watch this webinar to learn why it is a bad idea
    to use PDF/X-1a these days
    (and what you should be using instead).

    Learn why PDF/X-1a was a good idea 20 years ago,
    but no longer today.
    Have a look at more modern standards.
    Ask all your questions to the experts.

    This webinar is done by Christian Blaise and David van Driessche,
    who combined have more than 50 years of experience with PDF,
    standards and workflow automation.

    Registrate for the webinar here:

2018 - 25 years of PDF - Celebrating with Ghent Work Group

2021 - 20 years of transparency in PDF

Ghent Workgroup Guide -

(Picture from Ghent Workgroup Guide: “Transparency Best Practices”)

Ghent Workgroup Technical Specifications

    GWG Specifications are now the recognized PDF reference
    for the current printing and publishing industries.

Ghent Workgroup -

    "PDF/X-Plus" creation and preflight specifications and best
    practices are the core work of the Ghent PDF Workgroup.

    They include documentation that explain
    the theoretical sides of the specifications and
    they include deliverable reference implementations.

    "PDF/X-Plus" means specifications based on PDF/X,
    but being more restrictive.

Samples of typical scenarios

    1. Printshop requirement: "Give us a PDF".

      You can deliver a PDF according to: "GWG 2015 Sheetfed CMYK"

    2. Printshop requirement: "Give us a PDF/X".

      You can deliver a PDF according to: "GWG 2015 Sheetfed CMYK"

    3. Printshop requirement: "Give us a Ghent Workgroup PDF".

      You can deliver a PDF according to: "GWG 2015 Sheetfed CMYK"

    4. Printshop requirement: "Give us a PDF for a banner".

      You can deliver a PDF according to: "GWG 2015 large format PDF"

Best Practices / Everything you need to know

Commercial Print - Icon

Packaging - Icon

Sign and Display - Icon

      Best Practices for the Sign & Display Workflow

      It ranges from photo-print,
      over hanging or roll-up banners,
      car and bus wraps to huge billboards

      • Sign & Display Specifications

      • Application Settings

      • User Guide

      • Webinars

      • White Papers

Digital Print - Icon

Ghent Workgroup Infographics and Video Tutorials

Created by students for students

    The purpose of infographics and video tutorials is to serve as
    simple, helpful and clear representation of sometimes somewhat
    difficult to understand technical topics.

Ghent Workgroup PDF Output Suite

An Easy Way to Test your PDF Workflow!

GwG Ghent Workgroup PDF Output Suite 5 - Logo

    The Ghent Workgroup offers a compliancy label program for vendor
    members who are compliant with The Ghent PDF Output Suite 5.

    The Ghent PDF Output Suite was created for people processing
    PDF files in the graphic arts industry to help determine whether
    their PDF workflows are behaving as expected gives users
    the ability to quickly and easily identify errors.

    The Output Suite includes test patches for compatibility issues that
    might appear in an PDF/X-4 (ISO 15930-7) compliant workflow.

    Each patch being a small PDF file that aims at
    testing a specific PDF feature.
    These patches can be used by themselves, but more often they
    are grouped together to test related functionality in one go.

    These test patches can be used by end-users of graphic arts
    equipment as well as developers of applications that handle PDF files.

    In order to receive the compliancy label, a vendor must
    have published instructions for successful output with
    Ghent PDF Output Suite 5 and have submitted
    a proof of a successful output on their system(s).

callas software pdfToolbox achieves compliancy
with the Ghent PDF Output Suite 5

GwG Ghent Workgroup PDF Output Suite 5 - Compliance Logo callas pdfToolbox - Logo

    callas pdfToolbox has passed the critical test for determining
    quality displaying of PDF/X documents and is fully compliant
    with the Ghent PDF Output Suite 5:
    • Results of successful processing by
      callas software pdfToolbox of the Ghent PDF Output Suite 5
      were verified by the GWG Process Control Subcommittee
      and assessed as fully compliant.

    The callas pdfToolbox solution for review and approval, displays
    PDF/X files correctly according to the PDF/X-4 specification.
    Thus, the user sees exactly the same result in callas pdfToolbox
    as he/she will get in the printed product.

    Instructions for successful output of the Ghent PDF Output Suite
    with callas pdfToolbox:

Processing Steps

PDF Processing Steps Metadata
PDF metadata for post-print workflows

    It is common practice in packaging and other segments of
    the printing industry to add additional objects and metadata
    in a PDF that will not be used for printing the final product.

    Examples are cut lines (also referred to as cut contours,
    or die lines), and varnish, braille, legends…

callas pdfToolbox - PDF Processing Steps Metadata - Picture

Warning - Icon


Be aware not every software application,
tool or document claiming to follow a standard
is compliant with the actual standard.

Always use industry recognized tools!

Next step?

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tel:+46 (0)70 631 53 01

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