PDF Evolution: ISO Standards, Subsets, Versions and Types

PDF versions and subsets

The Portable Document Format (PDF) was created by Adobe in the last decade of the 20th century.

  • 1991 Dr. John Warnock, Adobe’s co-founder, started The Camelot Project
  • 1992 – Camelot evolved into PDF
  • 1993 – The tools for creating and viewing PDFs were released

The format was developed with the idea that every document should be readable and printable on any device while preserving the fidelity of the content.

PDF Versions

As expected, the format wasn’t popular from the start. Nevertheless, the PDF evolved steadily over the years to become one of the most used electronic document file formats today.

Continue reading →PDF Evolution: ISO Standards, Subsets, Versions and Types

PDF/UA is on the Way to Becoming A New PDF Standard

When the PDF became a standardized format in 2008, it served as the backbone for other PDF subset standards that mainstreamed certain uses of the PDF. Examples include the PDF/X (professional printing and publishing), the PDF/A (digital archiving) and soon, the PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility).

The new subset standard, PDF for Universal Access (PDF/UA) is slowly, but surely, going through the standardization ranks. The PDF/UA subset standard may still be relatively unknown right now, but people will know about it soon enough.

In case you didn’t know, just last month the PDF/UA has reached the ISO status of “Approved Work Item” (AWI) and the US and International Committees for PDF/UA are working to complete the draft for the ISO meeting in Orlando, FL this October.

What is the PDF/UA?

Essentially, the PDF/UA is designed to make PDF data accessible to everyone, which includes those who are hearing impaired, suffering from bone fractures, or are color-blind. The aim of the new standard is to let users with disabilities gain a way to interact with digital content.

PDF/UA: Making Files Accessible to users with Disabilities

The internet is filled with a large amount of files and a significant number of them are in the PDF format. Everything from annual reports to academic research documents can be accessed through PDF because it’s easy and convenient to use.

And because of this convenience and availability, most users take it for granted. But what if a user has a certain disability that prevents him from accessing digital content?

Creating PDF files that are “accessible” entails properly structuring the format. Of course, the proper structuring of the PDF file is more complex than it first appears. It involves integrating keyboard shortcuts to provide navigational options, adding alternative texts to describe images, and validating the reading and logical order of the page.

How Is This Possible?

Tagged PDF files. Tags in a PDF are basically markers for every content element in the file. The separation between content and appearance is critical because the validated tags pave the way for assistive tools to interpret the data.

For instance, this enables screen reading devices like Windows Eyes and Jaws, to voice the PDF text and information out loud to help people with visual impairments.

It’s fortunate that a lot of new PDF creation software has been developed over the years. These developments accommodate assistive-technology devices.

One notable application, Acrobat 9 allows PDF creators to generate tags easily. It can also switch to the zoom mode, read the data out loud, and check the file’s level of accessibility.

So try adding a few accessibility features to your own PDFs while the PDF/UA gets nearer to standardization. It’ll definitely help your PDFs reach, and benefit, a wider audience.

PDF, A De-Facto Standard No More

While you’re all excited about the upcoming holidays and can’t think of anything else but that gift list to get through, you can add one more thing to get excited about.

The de facto standard of information interchange, aka the PDF, just got one step closer to being adopted as a standardized format. Last week, the PDF 1.7 specification gained the approval votes it needed from ISO committee voting members as it reached the Enquiry “Close of voting” stage in the standardization process.

Before this certification happens though, the comments included with the votes need to be addressed before the format gets its official ISO standard tag—ISO 32000 (lovely name, no?). Even with those last few hurdles, the PDF’s standardization process is looking good.

Jim King, PDF architect and Senior Principle Scientist at Adobe Systems Inc. will serve as technical editor for the international working group meeting in January where the submitted 205 comments will be resolved.

On his blog he states, “If the group can address all the comments to the satisfaction of all countries, especially the ones voting negatively, it is possible to finish at that meeting and publish the revised document.”

So Is It Still An Adobe-Microsoft Showdown?

In the face of impending success, you can’t help but wonder about OOXML and where its standardization is headed.

OOXML was also submitted and fast tracked for an official ISO standard, but rejected in September. Alongside that rejection was the controversy over Microsoft’s active influence over committee members and their votes. The OOXML proposal then went back to the drawing board for revisions to take the negative votes and comments into account.

Boxing AnimalsNow, three months later, as its Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) draws near in February, OOXML’s standardization is still up in the air as its interoperability, the OOXML hot topic of the day, will be a major factor in the decision to approve it as such.

Making it even harder is that OOXML is constantly held up against ODF, the poster child of open source solutions. It’ll be interesting to see how “open” and how much “interoperability” a Microsoft format can possess in general.

While that issue unfolds, the PDF will more than likely get the ISO standardization without much drama. Has Adobe won this round already without even trying?

These are exciting times for the PDF format indeed.