PDF/A: Document Solution for Archiving and RM
We have already shown that PDF is the dominant and preferred format for handling hybrid electronic and captured document workflows today. We have also shown that PDF format supports the basic features required of an RM standard. The missing link in the PDF format, at least until recently, was the usability of PDF documents as a long-term archiving format
To address the growing need for a standard electronic document format, the ISO agreed that PDF/A would be the format of choice for long-term preservation and archive of documents. This 2002 initiative to create a uniform electronic format to archive documents was approved in June 2005. The PDF/A project was a joint sponsorship between Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies (NPES). A group composed of librarians, archivists, PDF software developers, image experts, government agencies, and others collaborated to develop PDF/A.was approved in June 2005.
According to ISO 19005-1, PDF/A “provides a mechanism for representing electronic documents in a manner that preserves their visual appearance over time, independent of the tools and systems used for creating, storing or rendering the files."
PDF/A vs. Traditional PDFs
PDF/A holds various modifications to traditional PDFs that enable preservation. Traditional PDFs are feature-rich in nature; this characteristic disallows them to preserve information over time. PDF documents are also not necessarily self-contained; as technology evolves and time passes the PDF document is susceptible to having information and content within the document lost. Every day, companies from all over the world trust PDFs to save and preserve documents; PDF/A was created to ensure the long-term accessibility and value of these documents.
In certain sectors of the document management industry, the PDF/A restrictions may prove tricky to comply with. For example, in the financial services and investment banking industries there may be a need to restrict view and/or print access to sensitive documents. This can often be achieved easily utilizing the native PDF-supported RC4-based encryption. With the PDF/A specifications, such document encryption would be disallowed.
PDF/A will maintain the static visual appearance of electronic documents over time, while maintaining the capacity for metadata. As previously discussed, metadata is essential in long-term preservation because it allows users to insert identifiable information regarding the details of a document such as author, date, subject, keywords, and more. Metadata insertion adds to the portability of a database as information about a document is kept both at the database level and at the document level itself.
PDF/A files are designed to be self-contained, self-describing, and more device independent than traditional PDF files. As a self-contained file, PDF/A possesses everything that is necessary to render or print the PDF/A contained within the file including fonts used for rendering content. By requiring that the fonts be embedded in the file, PDF/A ensures that the fonts required to render the document are always available to the PDF reader.
Considering the current buzz and archival advantages, in time PDF/A should become prevalent within document management initiatives.