How to archive with PDF/A

by Thomas Zellmann, Sales Manager


Nearly all industries require some level of logistics and paper-pushing. This means a daily incoming of documents in various digital and paper formats. Your task is to process the files and then archive them for organized recordkeeping. The task is cumbersome, but it’s part of the job. Files you need to organize include emails, Word documents, spreadsheets, scanned documents, and emails.

This is all the more reason why you need to utilize PDF/A as a long-term solution. Aside from being the ISO standard, it’s also the de facto standard adopted global-wide. Many industries have also made PDF/A archiving a mandatory practice.

How PDF/A adoption helps

PDF/A makes it easy to consolidate all document types into a uniform digital format. This makes it ideal for long-term e-storage that can be accessed by authorized users no matter where they are in the world.

What is PDF/A?

PDF/A is a PDF format under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). PDF/A was created in 2005 for the preservation of documents by storing them in a universally recognized format. This ensures that documents retain their original layout, including all images, text, and links. As an ISO-standard, industries get more reliable and consistent results than they would from using plain PDF. This is especially the optimal approach if you expect to access or share the documents down the line.

How is PDF/A different from PDF?

The two appear identical on the surface. However, PDF/A removes several features that aren’t suitable for archiving. For instance, PDF/A requires font-embedding. Users should stick to select fonts, such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times and avoid fancy fonts incompatible with PDF.

Similarly, embedding audios and videos is also a no-go, as are JavaScript, encryption, and executable file launches. PDF/A files need to be completely self-contained; every component needs to be in place to ensure viewability. This guarantees that the file appears in its original layout each time you open it. That means the text, graphics, and color remain the way they’re supposed to look regardless of device or PDF software used.

When to use PDF/A

If your industry or company requires archiving of any kind, then you should use PDF/A. You never know if or when you will need to access an old document. In this scenario, you want the document to remain exactly the way it was when you originally worked on it, no matter how long ago that was. Regular PDF suffices for documents you update frequently. However, files like legal documents, court records, and patient medical files benefit from – and often mandate – archiving via PDF/A.

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