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PDF format was first introduced in 1993 with Adobe Acrobat 1.0 from Adobe Systems. Following the standardization of PDF for special requirements like PDF/X for pre-press, PDF/A for archiving and PDF/E for engineering, Adobe invested a great effort into getting PDF format standardized for universal use. In July 2008, PDF 1.7 was officially certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as an open standard – ISO 32000. The advantage: the open PDF standard is now manufacturer independent and offers long-term reliability. Changes and future developments to the PDF format are no longer dependent on Adobe.

PDF/A Competence Center Newsletter: Issue 13


Current News: Standards ease future development
Main Articles:
The ISO standard PDF/X
PDF/E format – specially for engineering
PDF/A Competence Center Members Introduce Themselves:
Adobe Sytems
New Members




Dear readers,

Adobe is pleased to present the current issue of the PDF/A Competence Center newsletter.

The main article covers the similarities and differences between PDF/A and its “sister” standards PDF/X and PDF/E.

The Adobe member presentation focuses on PDF, Acrobat and LiveCycle.

Leonard Rosenthol,
Adobe Systems


Standards ease future development

PDF format was first introduced in 1993 with Adobe Acrobat 1.0 from Adobe Systems. Following the standardization of PDF for special requirements like PDF/X for pre-press, PDF/A for archiving and PDF/E for engineering, Adobe invested a great effort into getting PDF format standardized for universal use. In July 2008, PDF 1.7 was officially certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as an open standard – ISO 32000. The advantage: the open PDF standard is now manufacturer independent and offers long-term reliability. Changes and future developments to the PDF format are no longer dependent on Adobe. Adobe however submits its own further developments on PDF format to the ISO for inclusion in new versions of the standard. For example, the actual PDF specification from Acrobat 9.1 is equivalent to the ISO 32000 standard with Adobe Extension Level 5.


The ISO Standard PDF/X

PDF/X is the ISO standard for PDF print layout (ISO 15930). PDF/X defines a subset of PDF designed specifically for the requirements of the printing industry. In short, PDF content that predictably could adversely influence the printed product or that cannot be reasonably printed (for example video, audio, enterable form fields, security settings) are forbidden. And information that is required for the precise communication with the print service provider is stipulated (e.g. cuts and color details). The standard was developed for the exchange of ad data in the printing business and for conveying templates for printing orders. Adherence to the requirements can be verified in a PDF workflow, for example through use of the Preflight tool in Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro. Through PDF/X, the reliability of print layouts transmissions can be considerably increased. In the Media Standard for Print, the German Federal Association for Print and Media’s published guidelines for transferring data and proofs in print production, PDF/X has been the recommended data format since 2001. PDF/X files contain for example details about page size for trimmed pages (TrimBox) and for eventually required bleed differences (BleedBox). They may not contain LZW compression, and the use of markups and comments is limited (only outside of the printed area). JavaScript (for PDF forms) is not permitted, and fonts used in the document must be embedded. Color specifications must fulfill defined requirements.

PDF/X exists in several variants, which are identified through a number extension and date of issue. Five different variants exist, whereby PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 are currently the most widely distributed standards:

PDF/X-1a:2001 (subset of PDF 1.3, grey levels, CMYK and/or spot colours only)
PDF/X-2:2003 (superset of PDF/X-3 “OPI-like“ workflow)
PDF/X-3:2002 (superset of PDF/X-1a, device independent color spaces, color management through ICC profiles)
PDF/X-4:2007 (PDF/X-3 with PDF 1.6 support, complete transparency model, XMP support)
PDF/X-5:2007 (Extension to PDF/X-4 with reference to external reference objects.

PDF/E format – specially for engineering

PDF/E is based on the findings of the PDF/A working group and has the following goals:

  • reliable and secure distribution of intellectual property
  • reliable data exchange and change management between different applications and platforms
  • cost reduction through elimination of proprietary viewers, multiple formats and paper

Three main areas are covered by PDF/E:

  • Exact printing of 2D drawings in DIN formats
  • Consolidation of complex engineering data in a compact PDF (3D, object data etc.)
  • Support for a secure exchange of remarks, redlining and comments.

The main differences of PDF/E compare to normal PDF are:

  • All fonts must be embedded
  • No external resources are permitted – all content must be an integral part of the PDF file
  • Layers, 3D and multimedia content are constricted to guarantee reliability.

The differences between PDF/E and PDF/A are:

  • PDF/E is based on PDF 1.6 and supports functions like dimensioning, object characteristics and print scaling
  • Interactive media and 3D are permitted
  • Security / encryption and digital rights management are permitted.

Further detailed Adobe presentations and white papers about the PDF standards (PDF/A, PDF/X, PDF/E) can be found in the Adobe PDF portfolio, which you can download from www.acrobat.com by using the following link:




Adobe Sytems

Adobe and PDF: Dynamic Communication and Future Certainty

The vision of a paperless office has never really been achieved. Today it is well understood that digital documents and paper copies must co-exist. The technology that combines the advantages of tangible paper with the quick interchangeability of digital documents is PDF (Portable Document Format) from Adobe. Users treasure reliable PDF documents: what they see displayed on the monitor looks exactly the same when printed out; there are no ugly surprises. Adobe PDF files retain the appearance of the original documents and all information in the output document – text, drawings, 3D and color graphics, photos and even business logic – regardless of what application was used to create them. Even the platform is irrelevant. PDF files can be viewed and printed on Macintosh, Microsoft Windows and Unix operating systems, as well as on many mobile devices. In addition, every document can be protected against undesired access by means of a password and/or digital signature, and therefore can be digitally distributed without concern.

In the current version, PDF reacts like a flexible data container. With Acrobat 9, the software for creating, editing and circulating PDF documents, 3D data and multimedia content like videos, flash animations and audio files can be embedded, in addition to more common content like text, images and 2D graphics. The free Adobe Reader, which is the most common PDF viewer, also belongs to the Acrobat family. Since both Acrobat and the Reader contain a flash runtime, the security critical call of an external player is unnecessary. For this reason, the days of static digital documents is definitively over – communication has achieved a previously unheard of dynamic.

Adobe Acrobat 9 Family

Adobe Acrobat 9 is the “Swiss army knife” for PDF documents and covers the functions of creating, editing and distributing PDF documents. The Adobe Acrobat Family includes, in addition to the free Adobe Reader 9, the products Acrobat 9 Standard, Acrobat 9 Pro and Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, all of which must be purchased.

One of the most important new features in Version 9 is the implementation of the Flash runtime engine in the Adobe Reader and in Acrobat. With the comprehensive functions available in Acrobat, intelligent interactive PDFs from widely varying applications and formats can be generated, and not only “dumb” PDF documents via the distiller. PDF documents that are created with Adobe Acrobat can adhere to the complete ISO 32000 specification. This includes content with text, images, film, audio content, 2D vector drawings, 3D CAD models, Acroform or XML forms with 2D barcode, markups and comments, file attachments, metadata, object data, security settings from simple passwords and encrypted documents through to digital rights management, JavaScript content for complex interactions, validations or calculations and digital signatures.

Beginning from Acrobat 9 Pro, the user is able to activate documents for the Adobe Reader. When an activated document is opened in the Adobe Reader, additional functions become available including commenting tools, saving of forms, file attachments, measurements, 3D sections and the unrestricted placement of digital signatures. Alongside these products are the Adobe LiveCycle Designer for creating dynamic XML forms as well as the Preflight engine, which along with the validation of PDF, PDF/A, PDF/X and PDF/E documents also offers conversion and repair functions.

Acrobat 9 Pro Extended offers, in addition to numerous 3D CAD converters, the 3D Reviewer for preparing 3D models to include in 3D PDFs and a complete engine for the geo-referencing of PDFs, as well as a video converter for Flash videos. And the Adobe Presenter is also supplied, which can be used for creating PDF/Flash format from audible PowerPoint presentations.

Adobe LiveCycle ES2 – Catalyst for efficient processes in enterprise environments

Adobe has combined the quality and commitment of PDF format, including PDF/A, with the modern methods for user guidance and Web 2.0 based on Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR technologies. Adobe LiveCycle ES2 serves thereby as the integration platform and turntable to existing back-ends. The focus is on document-based business processes that are complemented with functions ranging from form workflows up to document protection and document control based on rights management.

The technology offers mobile and local access to sensitive applications as well as the option of making them available in the cloud. Through the combination of previously existing systems with LiveCycle ES2, significant production increases both for businesses as well as for IT can be realized. In addition, the newest version offers a rich internet application (RIA) framework, which can be used for creating individualized work environments.

With the new Adobe LiveCycle Mosaic ES2, personalized, activity-oriented and intuitively usable RIA applications can be developed. The improvements in LiveCycle ES2 also include a simplified access to information and business critical applications, making them more easily and flexibly controllable from desktops and mobile devices. Adobe LiveCycle Workspace ES2 Mobile establishes access to LiveCycle ES2 over iPhone, Blackberry™ and Windows™ mobile devices, so that users can participate in business critical processes while they are in transit. The Adobe LiveCycle Launchpad ES2 AIR application guarantees quick and easy access to the LiveCycle Services from a desktop. Users can, for example, create PDFs or establish guidelines for reliable document processes by means of a simple drag-and-drop interface.

When it comes to structuring collections of data, opinions or information, forms are most commonly used in businesses, by public authorities and in other organizations. Using the Adobe LiveCycle Forms ES2 as a basis, form and document-based processes can be more efficiently and intelligently organized. PDF forms can be automatically pre-filled with existing data and sent to the respective recipients in the proper format. Adobe LiveCycle Reader Extensions ES2 enables the automated activation of additional functions in Adobe Reader, which can be found on virtually every computer. This allows, in addition to own employees, also external parties like partners and customers to open documents, process them both online and offline, and correctly authenticate them with an electronic signature. Even when a handwritten signature is necessary, the use of a 2D barcode permits the automatic transfer of the received data back into the IT system. Since forms like credit card requests, for example, often contain sensitive data, security plays a major roll. LiveCycle Rights Management ES2 can be used to automatically and effectively protect this information at document level throughout the entire process. This way, elaborate routine workflows can be transacted without a change of media, efficiently, and despite this remain legally binding.

More information can be found at www.adobe.com


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

Appligent, United States

SAGA GmbH, Germany

Soluzionisubito, Italy

Stabilimenti Tipografici, Italy

Tags: SAGA, engineering, pre-press, requirements
Categories: Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC), PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/X