PDF/A-3 lets you embed any file into your PDF document

By Thomas Zellmann, LuraTech Sales Manager

The basic cornerstone of PDF/A is simple: to create a universal archiving standard so that documents always retain their original format—even in an unforeseeable future where technology is always evolving.

Since its rollout, two more updates have been added: PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-3, released in 2011 and 2012, respectively. PDF/A-2 allowed valid PDF/A files to be embedded.

PDF/A-3 really only adds a single feature, but it’s an important one. It enables users to embed any files into a PDF. This includes files, such as CAD, CSV, XML, images, and binary executables. This addition creates many new applications. With PDF/A-3, your PDF can act as a delivery vehicle or container for any file type. In essence, PDF becomes a zip archive.

Embedded files fall into one of three types:


SOURCE – used for converting files like Microsoft Office, Open Office, and LibreOffice into a long-term and safe PDF/A file. SOURCE is also used for industry-specific applications. You can embed a DWG file created through a CAD program, for example, as well. In work environments where only select personnel have access to CAD for accessing DWG files, others can use a PDF viewer like Foxit Reader to display the file as a PDF/A.

SUPPLEMENT – Also known as DATA, SUPPLEMENT is the type for embedding every bit of information related to a particular document. In an office environment, this may entail, for example, a MindMap graphic where meeting minutes are converted to PDF/A.

ALTERNATIVE – Use this type for embedding XML files, such as in electronic invoicing and billing purposes.

Email Archiving

PDF/A is commonly used for converting emails into a long-term archiving format that’s safe for recordkeeping. The contents of the email, including attachments, are converted into a single sequential file. This, however, doesn’t always preserve the original format of the email body and the contents of the attachments. PDF/A-3 solves this issue by enabling archiving of emails in its original form, including attachments.

Because Foxit PhantomPDF 8.0 supports PDF/A, you can easily embed and convert files of any type and make the content accessible across the workforce. A handy feature in the form of a red point lets users know that a specific PDF container has embedded files in it. Then, they can use their favorite PDF viewer (hopefully, Foxit Reader) to open the archive, easy-peasy.

2 thoughts on “PDF/A-3 lets you embed any file into your PDF document

  1. corgi onesie

    I do agree with all of the concepts you have introduced on your post. They’re very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are very short for newbies. Could you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.


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