When one wants to distribute a document containing text and images via the Internet, one often chooses for a document in pdf-format. The advantage of a pdf is that it almost always looks the same, whether viewed on a phone, tablet or computer. However, archival documents, such as personnel files or medical files, have an exceptionally high standard. These documents must look exactly the same under all circumstances. That is why PDF/A has been developed.

What is PDF/A?

A PDF/A (Portable Document Format Archivable) is a variant of the regular PDF format and has been developed specifically for the long-term archiving of documents. The primary purpose of a PDF/A is to replace paper with a document in electronic form. In addition, PDF/A is ISO-standardized in contrast to a normal pdf. This means that it ensures that the visual image of the electronic documents always remains the same, regardless of the tools and systems used for the production, storage and reproduction of the document. This includes the retention of fonts, colour profiles and images.

The technical side of PDF/A

There are three different types of PDF/A, namely PDF/A-1, PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-3. PDF/A-1 is the original version and PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-3 are an addition to this. Both formats offer additional options for archiving PDF documents.

  • PDF/A-1 is the first version of PDF/A and was developed in 2001. This format ensures that all sources (images, illustrations and fonts) are embedded in the PDF/A document. It also supports digital signatures and the use of hyperlinks.
  • PDF/A-2 was released in 2011 and has a number of new features compared to PDF/A-1. For example, the JPEG200 contains compression, transparent elements and PDF layers. A very important innovation is the “container” function. This allows PDF/A files to be integrated into a PDF/A-2 file.
  • PDF/A-3 was released in 2012 and features a function that allows any type of file to be integrated into the PDF/A-3 file. For example, the original file can also be integrated into the PDF/A-3 file.

In addition, there are also different levels that the PDF/A files can have. These reflect the quality of the archived document:

  • Level A meets all requirements of the ISO standard. This level can often only be achieved by converting documents that are originally digital.
  • Level B is the basic level. This guarantees that the content of the document can be shown unambiguously in the future. A level B document is easier to create than a level A document. However, it does not guarantee 100% text extraction and searchability.

PDF/A and Archive IT

Archive-IT has all the techniques necessary for the production of PDF/A files. In consultation with you, we look at the legal frameworks, the technical possibilities of your software and your specific wishes with regard to digital archiving. Whether it concerns the transformation of digital documents to PDF/A or the scanning of paper documents to the correct digital archive format, possibly with text extraction. We have all the relevant knowledge and tools at our disposal to deliver your information in a future-proof way for your digital archive!

Do you have any questions or are you curious what Archive-IT can do for you? Do not hesitate to contact us!

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Marc Polmans
Marc PolmansProduct Management

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