Adobe boosts PDF archive prospects with ISO move

Adobe has submitted its Portable Document Format to the International Organisation for Standardisation.

Adobe has submitted its Portable Document Format to the International Organisation for Standardisation.

Making the format an open standard should help to allay concerns among users about the long-term accessibility of electronic documents archived as PDFs.

A recent study from Freeform Dynamics found that many users were concerned about long-term storage standards.

PDF is used to encode the exact look of a document. Adobe published the complete PDF specification in 1993, and since then various versions of PDF have become standardised, including one for archiving documents. However, it is now submitting the full PDF 1.7 specification to ISO.

Kevin Lynch, senior vice-president and chief software architect at Adobe, said, "This is the next logical step in the evolution of PDF from de facto standard to a formal, de jure standard. By releasing the full PDF specification for ISO standardisation, we are reinforcing our commitment to openness."

Dale Vile, research director at analyst firm Freeform Dynamics, said Adobe's move would cement PDF format as the main document format for archiving. The main alternatives come from Microsoft, with Open XML, and the open source Open Document Format (ODF).

Microsoft is also submitting its Open XML format to ISO. The format is used by the latest Office 2007 applications.

Vile said, "The default standard is PDF for a lot of archiving, and this is really going to strengthen that format, and help Adobe defend its position and slow up some of the others from gaining traction."

He added that PDF was so popular that Microsoft had initially announced it would support exporting to PDF in Office 2007. However, owing to legal objections from Adobe, Office will not have PDF support out-of-the-box, but it will be available as a separate free download.

"I have no doubt that Open XML will eventually become pervasive, but it is application-specific. The PDF standard is application-­independent, and this is important for archiving. The public sector, in particular, is aware of the potential restrictions of proprietary technologies," Vile said.

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