Do you know what the PDF / A format is? Get to know him thoroughly

That is why today we are going to talk about this somewhat peculiar format. Although it is based on the PDFs that we know, it also has some differential aspects, since they are designed to serve as a long-term storage medium, so that we can save the data for decades without it being damaged.

This is due to the fact that, although the files should not suffer damage over time, it may be that at a certain moment we do not have the necessary software to be able to access their content, due to the type of data storage of this type of files. Therefore, given its operation and data management that conventional PDFs perform internally, it may happen to us in the future.

What is the PDF / A format

When we talk about PDF / A we refer to a variation of the PDF format, which guarantees that a document can be opened in the same way regardless of the software we are using at all times. In this way, all the information necessary to display the document and its elements are embedded in the same way in the file, making it possible for our documents to be safe and accessible in the long term. And it is that the precise reproduction of the content in the next 25 years or more, so we can open the document at that time with the content unaltered.

Documents in PDF / A format are completely independent. This means that both its content, such as color information, text, images, audio, fonts and other elements are found embedded in the file itself, so it cannot contain information from an external source. Attributes enhance these types of files as a playability benefit. When files are copied, it will contain the same elements as the original, since it does not allow subsequent changes or modifications, ensuring the originality of the content.

Also, this type of format does not support executable content, URL, transparency, JavaScript and LZW compression unlike traditional PDF documents. We can find all the information, tools and documentation from this link to its official website.

What types can we find

Given the evolution of the PDF format in recent years, programs capable of reading, creating or modifying them have also obtained this evolution. For this reason, the PDF / A standard has been revised with new levels, each with different characteristics and objectives. Therefore, we can find three modalities such as the PDF / A-1, PDF / A-2 and PDF / A-3.

This does not mean that a higher number implies a more advanced level of the standard, which is why the new ones have not replaced the previous standard. This is because each level is better suited to the needs of the file.

Each of these levels in turn contains two or three sublevels:

  • Sublevel B (basic): is one that meets all the requirements and specifications of the standard.
  • Sublevel U: this is simply a basic fulfillment. It counts as an added requirement that the PDF texts always have their equivalent in Unicode encoding to guarantee the proper indexing and reading of the texts.
  • Sublevel A (accessible): are those that, in addition to contents B and U, comply with the content structure and are labeled in a way that describes both the order and the hierarchy of the reading.

That is why each option takes care of providing different levels of compliance, which facilitates the preservation of various elements in your digital file and supports other elements such as effects and layers.

Advantages and disadvantages over PDF

The use of PDF / A has some advantage With respect to the traditional ones, because when it comes to storing the data, these are kept based on official limitations with respect to the conventional ones. In this way we can use it to save long-term information, its main objective. So we can read and understand them, even if the software changes.

In the case that we work with a PDF / A file instead of the usual Adobe format, generally the readers of these will indicate them, since the initial appearance of the content will be similar to the naked eye. This means that, in the event that what we need is to create documents with all kinds of content, not just text, the popular Adobe format is a widely used solution. But in the event that we need the files to be accessible over time, the use of PDF / A will always be more advisable.

However, we must also take into account their limitations at the time of use, as a PDF document can contain links, buttons, form fields, audio and video. It can also include metadata, annotations, and embedded files. In addition, they allow you to electronically sign with digital certificates and encrypt to keep your content safe from third parties. PDF / A lack all of this, so it is important to take it into account when choosing between one or the other.

Convert a PDF to PDF / A

If we are convinced and want to convert our PDF documents to PDF / A, we can use powerful software such as Nitro Pro, a professional tool PDF management for Windows. If we want to try it, we can download a free trial version from this link on its main page. It is a complete application with which you can create, convert, edit, sign and share PDF files. Among its functions is the possibility of converting any PDF file to PDF / A 1 and 2.

Nitro Pro open document

Once installed, we execute it and click on the “Open” button to add a new document. Once loaded, click on the tab “Turn into” and we click on the A PDF / A option that we find in the toolbar. Subsequently, we choose the level of compliance that we want to apply (1b, 2b or 2u). If the document contains images, we can opt for PDF / A-2b that guarantees long-term visual preservation. Then a window will appear so that we can choose where we want to save the file. Once this is done, the conversion will be processed and we will receive a confirmation message informing of the conversion to the new format, complying with the established standards.

Nitro Pro export to PDFA

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