ISO Standard for Long-Term Archiving
ISO 19005-1 defines “a file format based on PDF, known as PDF/A, which 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 rending the files.” (from ISO 19005-1). The Standard does not define an archiving strategy or the goals of an archiving system. It identifies a “profile” for electronic documents that ensures the documents can be reproduced in years to come.
- Guaranteed Access to Content: PDF/A ensures that documents may be reproduced in the unforeseeable future.
- All Documents Accepted: Electronic or paper source; it doesn’t matter. Almost any document can become PDF/A-compliant.
- An International Standard: ISO 19005 (PDF/A) is managed by the international community in an open and democratic process.
- Conformance May Be Validated: PDF/A conformance imposes stringent technical requirements. A wide variety of vendors produce tools for checking and correcting documents to ensure they meet PDF/A standards.
- Better for Business and the Environment: PDF/A is electronic paper. As such, PDF/A enables better document workflows, reduces waste and carbon emissions and improves overall efficiency.
Advantages of PDF/A
Electronic documents have countless advantages over traditional archiving formats (e.g. paper or microfilm). Improved accessibility alone may substantiate the implementation of an electronic archive. Some advantages of a PDF/A archive over a TIFF or a paper-based archive are:
PDF/A stores objects (e.g. text, graphics), allowing for an efficient full-text search in an entire archive. TIFF is a raster format and must first be scanned with an OCR (optical character recognition) engine.
PDF/A files require only a fraction of the memory space of original or TIFF files, without loss of quality. The smaller file size is especially advantageous by electronic file transfers (FTP, e-mail attachment etc.)
PDF/A format can be optimized. The optimization can be focused on images (e.g. scanned checks) or extracting structured data (e.g. voucher information). TIFF treats all file information the same.
Metadata like title, author, creation date, modification date, subject, keywords, etc. can be stored in a PDF/A file. PDF/A files can be automatically classified based on the metadata, without requiring human intervention.