Demystifying Active Content

Demystifying Active Content

Active Content is a fantastic way to automatically keep documents current well after their creation. You can embed code and even dynamic web links into HTML, Office documents and PDF files. This enables a document to automatically update itself by connecting to relevant servers to grab the latest content such as currency conversion rates, interest rates or stock valuations. Or consider even something as simple and common as having Word insert the current date and time in your document’s footer.

Unfortunately, active content can become a nightmare when it comes time to archive content. Archived content must never change, or the very point of archiving is lost. Even worse, regulatory compliance may be impacted resulting in huge fines as well as damage to a business’ reputation.

The tricky part of active content is that it is not always easy to detect if a file is using it. This can result in active documents being archived without the knowledge of compliance officers.

One way to overcome this concern is to convert documents to PDF/A as part of the archiving process. PDF/A (A stands for Archiving) is an ISO standard with global acceptance and supported by many independent software vendors. PDF/A explicitly does not allow for active content. Any active content encountered during the conversion to PDF/A process is frozen at its last value and active code is stripped from the document. No matter where, on which device or when you open a PDF/A file, it will always look exactly the same as at the moment of its conversion. The resulting PDF/A file is an exact and permanent snapshot of the original file.

More and more regulators around the world require the use of PDF/A for long term document preservation. Be prepared for that day. Now is a good time to consider making the switch.

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