PDF/A Frequently Asked Questions


Why archive with PDF/A?
PDF/A is the most responsible method to ensure your electronic documents can be viewed tomorrow, or decades later.  PDF/A combines the reliability and security of microfiche with the convenience of electronic documents. Without conversion to PDF/A, companies risk losing valuable information within their electronic documents, or worse have documents that will not open at all.

Why not archive with microfiche?
Microfiche has been a reliable option for archiving for quite some time. However, microfiche does not provide the same convenience, accessibility, and ease of use as PDF/A. PDF/A documents can be opened instantly on a computer and be emailed all around the world.  Recent advances including PDF/A makes archiving with microfiche an outdated method of document preservation.

Is there a special viewer for PDF/A?
Similar to PDF files, PDF/A can be viewed with Adobe’s free reader. The PDF/A format is actually a valid PDF file, with some built-in -limitations.

Who should be archiving with PDF/A?
Any responsible record manager, or company concerned with the integrity of their documents should rely on PDF/A for their archival needs.  Microfiche and paper are  reliable, time-tested methods for archiving documents but both  lack the convenience and accessibility of PDF/A.  PDF/A provides complete security  that your documents will view and open correctly  in the future.

What is the difference between PDF and PDF/A?
The PDF/A format is actually a restricted version of  PDF.  In particular, the PDF/A part I specs as currently adopted are a restricted version of the PDF 1.4 specifications.  These specifications  will guarantee that your documents will view and print correctly now, and forever.

Why can I rely on PDF/A for long-term archiving?
PDF/A is recognized by leading record management organizations for electronic document archiving. Both ARMA (Association of Records Managers and Administrators), and NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) have recommend archiving documents using the PDF/A format, http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/pdf/strategic-directions-status-sept2004.pdf.

What is the difference between PDF/A, A-1a, A-1b
PDF/A-1a ensures the preservation of a document’s logical structure and content text stream in natural reading order. The text extraction is especially important when the document must be displayed on a mobile device (for example a PDA) or other devices in accordance with Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act. In such cases the text must be reorganized on the limited screen size (re-flow). This feature is also known as “Tagged PDFs”.

PDF/A-1b ensures that the text (and additional content) can be correctly displayed (e.g. on a computer monitor), but does not guarantee that extracted text will be legible or comprehensible. It therefore does not guarantee compliance with Section 508.

The difference between PDF/A-1a and -1b has no impact for scanned documents, provided the files have not been enhanced by means of OCR for searching.