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Shawna McAlearney

Shawna McAlearney is the Marketing Specialist for Appligent Document Solutions.
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PDF/A Competence Center Newsletter: Issue 2

Table of Contents

  • Current News:
    • PDF/A Conference in Amsterdam (April 10 to 11, 2008)
    • Signatures and PDF/A
    • Interactive Forms and PDF/A
  • PDF/A Competence Center Members Introduce Themselves:
    • intarsys
  • New Members





Dr. Bernd Wild

Dear PDF/A Community,

Today you are receiving the second issue already of the PDF/A Competence Center Newsletter. We hope that you will once again find abundant valuable information about PDF/A! The main theme of this issue is of course the 1st International PDF/A Conference that will take place next month on April 10th and 11th in Amsterdam. The high number of registered participants demonstrates to us as organizers of the event that PDF/A is gaining momentum and is becoming increasingly interesting for a growing number of companies. We are looking forward to meeting you too in Amsterdam! By the way, if you attend the conference and can correctly answer a couple of questions about PDF/A, you have great chances of being a winner! More information can be found in the section about the conference.

A major topic that we are constantly receiving questions about is electronic signatures coupled with PDF/A. You can read more about this subject in this issue, and learn what to look out for.

Your feedback to the current newsletter is also more than welcome, so we can improve for future issues! I wish you a pleasant time reading.

Dr. Bernd Wild
Board Member
PDF/A Competence Center


PDF/A Conference in Amsterdam (April 10 – 11, 2008)

In just a couple of weeks, from April 10th to 11th 2008, the “Who’s Who” of PDF/A specialists from around the globe, including Adobe and the likes, will meet in the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam to share their knowledge in the form of presentations and keynote speeches.

Over 170 participants from more than 20 countries have already committed to attending THE PDF/A event of the year. The organizers are expecting about 80 further registrations by the time the conference begins. Numerous customers from various sectors are looking forward to this international exchange of ideas.

The list of participants even includes representatives from the Austrian, German, Dutch, Slovenian, Swiss and British national libraries!

As a conference attendee you can also inform yourself about PDF/A at the following exhibitor booths: Beta Systems, callas software, Compart, Datalogics, DETEC, DocPath, Document Dialog, icon Systemhaus, intarsys, LuraTech, M & R micro-imaging, MagSoft, Nuance, PDF Tools, PDFlib, and SEAL Systems.

In addition, attending the conference and visiting the exhibitors makes you eligible to win a prize: the PDF/A Competence Center is again sponsoring three valuable prizes; an iPod, a digital camera, and an external hard disk. In order to win, you only have to answer a couple of questions about PDF/A.

More information, conference program and registration
Signatures and PDF/AA question that always pops up with the implementation of PDF/A-1 as an archiving format is the compatibility with digital signatures. In fact, PDF/A-1 is the only worldwide standardized document format for long-term archiving that explicitly supports the embedding of digital signatures. Although it is often the case in archiving systems that the digital signature is stored separately from the actual document, PDF/A-1 offers the advantage that the signature can be embedded directly in the document, without violating the strict requirements that the standard demands. This way, signed documents can be treated as a single entity.

However, there are certain aspects to observe when applying signatures that don’t necessarily come to attention with “normal” PDF files. For example, the PDF/A-1 standard requires that all character sets used in the signature must be embedded. As is the case in documents with visible signatures that are applied using signature fields, the signatures are visualized using text entries about the signature owner and his certificate, as well as the signature reason. The character set for this text must also then be embedded in the same manner as the fonts for the actual document. The same principle applies for colored representations (e.g. stamped images) – the color spaces must meet the PDF/A-1 requirements. Since signatures are often created and embedded using specialized software, users are recommended to conduct a one-time validation, to ensure that the signature does not violate any of the PDF/A requirements.

A further issue deals with the conversion of digitally signed PDF files into PDF/A. Here it can be generally stated that a PDF/A correction to the document will invalidate the existing signature, since purely technical changes, even if they don’t alter the appearance, will still change the hash value of the document and therefore “break” the signature. In such cases, either the PDF/A document must be signed again, or you will have to waive PDF/A conformance.

Interactive Forms and PDF/A

Numerous businesses offer interactive forms that users fill out and electronically sign. The signed forms should then be electronically archived. A lot of you will wonder how such an interactive document can be archived according to the PDF/A standard – and if it’s even possible.

In short, interactive forms are not “per se” PDF/A conformant. They often contain JavaScript for editing field entries etc., and these are linked to fields, pages, or the document. User actions in a forms document, for example clicking in a field, leaving a field, displaying a page or calling out a document, activate the JavaScript. Quite often, such actions change the visual appearance of the document, in that they for example set the date, or format the field content and how it is displayed.

This is exactly what is not permitted in the ISO standard. The standard requires that PDF/A represents documents in a way that “preserves their visual appearance over time, independent of the tools and systems used for creating, storing or rendering the files” (extract from ISO 19005-1). Therefore there is no logic permitted in a PDF/A document that can be interpreted by a special program (including Adobe Reader) and ultimately lead to changes in the document.

What does this all mean? The workflow remains as it was: the PDF form will be administered and distributed as it was before. The user fills out the form and electronically signs it as part of the regular business process. The end of the process is the correct time to convert the document to PDF/A. Once it has been successfully converted, the document can be placed in a long-term archive.

JavaScript is removed during the conversion process, without changing the visual representation of the document. Outcomes, like the above mentioned setting of the date, are recorded in the fields as fixed-entries, with “frozen” formatting. No interactive changes are permitted after the conversion process – the form fields become write-protected.

Of course, the conversion of an interactive form to PDF/A can have consequences: signatures in a forms document will be broken if changes have occurred to the document (e.g. the removal of JavaScript). A possible solution is to re-sign affected documents in a single batch, after successful conversion to PDF/A.



Dr. Bernd Wild, President of intarsys:

“We are currently establishing partnerships with DMS and archive providers in order that users can safely archive documents in PDF/A format in their solutions. We have already demonstrated a successful integration together with windream. There’s also an integration with the leading open source ECM Alfresco, which is represented on the market by the German system partner dmc. Solutions that support electronic signature are especially in high demand”.

The Swiss Rhaetian Railway also uses the intarsys solution. How this implementation actually looks and what advantages it brings for the customers can be learned at the PDF/A Conference in Amsterdam. The Rhaetian Railway Ltd will be giving a presentation about their project and their experiences and advantages in daily business.

Intarsys specializes in the creation, processing and conversion of PDF documents and has used their vast knowledge to develop a high-performance validation and repair tool. Their “PDF/A Live!” product checks PDF documents for conformance to the PDF/A standard and carries out possible repair tasks, in order that the documents can be stored in a long-term archive in accordance with the standard.


  • MagSoft, Netherlands
  • CS Consulting AG, Germany
  • Mikrografija d.o.o., Slovenia
  • Solid Documents LLC, USA
  • Datalogics, USA
  • IFIN Sistemi, Italy
  • Spigraph, France
  • Imaging Systems d.o.o, Slovenia

Tags: PDF/A Conference in Amsterdam, electronic signatures, interactive forms
Categories: Digital Signatures, Forms, PDF, PDF/A