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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 20

Table of Contents

Current News: PDF/A Competence Center Extends Range at CeBIT
Main Article: PDF/A, more than just archiving
PDF/A Competence Center Members Introduce Themselves: Four Pees
New Members



David vanDriessche




David van Driessche

Dear Readers,

When talking about PDF/A, the first thing that is usually mentioned is the fact that it is developed and maintained by the ISO and as such a global standard. Which is of course true, but at the same time hides the local fragmentation that happens when such a global standard hits reality.

As a Belgian, I’m quite familiar with such fragmentation. Living in a country with 5 governments (give or take a few) makes you very aware of how something can be decided on a global level and yet implemented very differently on the local level.

Of course PDF/A doesn’t change as a standard and as a file format in different countries; technically the PDF/A standard is very much a global truth. But the way different companies, associations and governments decide to use the standard differs substantially and that is reflected in how quickly and thoroughly the ISO standard is adopted locally.

What does that teach us about PDF/A then?

First of all, it is worthwhile to compare the adoption of PDF/A to the adoption of another ISO standard. In the print and publishing market PDF/X became an ISO file exchange standard for PDF files as early as 2001; that means it has been around for about ten years already. Interestingly enough the adoption of PDF/X was in the beginning very locally fragmented as well, just as PDF/A adoption today is.

The reasons for that were slightly different though. Where for PDF/A in many cases governments seem to play a decisive role in forcing or accelerating adoption of the standard, for PDF/X industry associations were much more the driving force. Initially the industry associations from a limited number of countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Denmark as well as the German speaking countries…) started adopting and evangelizing a PDF/X-based way of working and this effort very quickly spread from there.

In the end that is not that important though I believe. What is important – and is the second observation I take away from my experience at Four Pees – is that technology always seems to follow the same curve. Slow adoption initially until a certain critical mass is reached, and rapid spread and growth afterwards. And when I look at the PDF/A market, even though the decision makers and driving forces might be slightly different, I believe we are beginning to see this rapid growth phase in some countries today already.

Mark my words (perhaps by saving this as a PDF/A document?), I believe we’ll see a lot more PDF/A implementations very soon.

David van Driessche
Chief Technology Officer, Four Pees


PDF/A Competence Center Extends Range at CeBIT

In the fifth appearance of the PDF/A Competence Center at CeBit, visitors can benefit from comprehensive information on PDF/A from The PDF/A Competence Center booth located in Hall 3, Stand D34.

The PDF/A Competence Center, together with its partner, VOI (the Association of Organisation and Information Systems) and representatives of member firms actino, callas software, Four Pees, intarsys, LuraTech and Zöller & Partner, will be on hand, providing a wide range of experience and expertise to answer questions on all aspects of the growing body of PDF standards for document and enterprise content management.


PDF/A, more than just archiving

The obvious reason anybody looks at adopting PDF/A is because they have a need to keep good archives for a certain time. Good may mean they want to be able to have exact visual reproduction of the documents in the archive or it may go further and they might want to also guarantee semantic correctness of the documents. Likewise the range of meanings of for a certain time may span a range from 7 to 10 years for tax papers to forever for libraries or national archives. But in most projects, people remain very focused on the archival side of the problem and the risk is that other opportunities are missed as a result.

That is a shame: taking a step back and looking at PDF/A as an ISO standard amongst many other similar PDF-based ISO standards can show additional opportunities and reasons to standardize on PDF/A.

So lets take a step back: PDF/A is an ISO standard based on another ISO standard, PDF (ISO 32000). This means that PDF/A documents are PDF files on which additional restrictions and demands are placed. And following that same method, the ISO has developed and is still developing a number of other standards that can be very interesting for companies looking at PDF/A. Some examples:

PDF/X was the first PDF-based standard adopted and further developed by the ISO. As far back as 2001, ISO PDF/X was created to allow the use of PDF files in the print and publishing market.

PDF/E is an ISO standard for use in engineering workflows, allowing for 3D drawings in PDF files.

PDF/UA is becoming an ISO standard to create standardized accessible documents; allowing for example visually impaired people to use screen-reader applications with PDF files in a reliable way.

Does that mean that companies looking at PDF/A today should instead adopt all of these standards? Not necessarily, but it would be a good thing to at least look at those other standards and understand how they could play a role.

It is also important when evaluating tools for use in PDF/A workflows. While some tools focus exclusively on PDF/A, there are certainly also tools on the market that add value towards some or all of these additional standards. And if such standards now or in the future hold value for a company, the selection of which tools are used should follow that realization.

And lastly, knowing those other standards is important when building the business case around adoption of PDF/A in a company. Additional demands such as the necessity to print or publish archived documents or convert them into accessible documents may very well change the scope of the project and lend additional credibility to standardizing on PDF/A as a way to prepare for things to come.


Four Pees

Four Pees is a Belgian company, founded in 2007 by Tom Peire. Initially started purely as a marketing service provider for technology vendors, Four Pees evolved into an international value-added distributor and service provider for a number of well-targeted market segments.

As a distributor Four Pees provides sales, marketing and professional services support to a worldwide reseller channel for the portfolio of products it represents. As a service provider Four Pees also provides marketing and product strategy services to the software and hardware vendors it represents. This puts the company in a unique position between its vendors and end-users, which improves communication between those groups in both directions.

Four Pees and PDF/A

One of the market segments Four Pees targets is the document archival market. The portfolio of products for this market includes automation products such as DFlux, to automate manual tasks and improve processing efficiency and the pdfaPilot tools developed by callas software, for exceptionally easy PDF/A testing and correction.

Due to the fact that Four Pees is not only active in the document archival market, but also provides services towards the print and publishing market, it is uniquely positioned to take on bigger projects where the use of PDF/A is only part of a larger scope.


We welcome the following companies as members in the PDF/A Competence Center:

Collaris Consultancy, Netherlands

CVision Technologies, USA

eHealthOpen, Germany


Tags: CeBIT, semantic correctness, visual reproduction
Categories: PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA, PDF/X