PDF file format has been adopted as a widely used digital document format for publishing contents and sharing over the internet. In its initial days, PDF files were used for desktop publishing of documents such as posters, flyers, and other similar types of files for physical printing. With the passage of time, PDF introduced new standards including PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/VT, PDF/UA, and PDF/X. These, along with introduction of PDF Reader software, added additional features of being light weight and compatible, resulting in PDF becoming the file standard for fixed documents.

PDF Standards

The PDF file format includes file format standards introduced with the passage of time. These PDF standards were created in accordance with the industrial needs and have certain limitations and restrictions to fulfil specific requirements.


PDF/A is an ISO standard format for archiving of electronic documents in PDF format. Its primary reason for coming into being was to meet the requirements of long term archiving. The standard ensures the opening of archived files even after long time by imposing certain limitations on document integral parts to achieve conformance. The format is now widely adopted across all industries . PDFA/A viewers like Adobe Acrobat Reader, ensure that files saved with this format can be opened even in future in accordance with the information shared by this Standard.


The “E” in PDF/E stands for Engineering. PDF/E was published as ISO 24517 in 2008 as a standard for creating PDF based Engineering documents to be used in a variety of application areas. Key areas making use of PDF/E file format include geospatial, construction and manufacturing workflows. The PDF/E standard provides a mechanism for the exchange and archiving of engineering documents based on the PDF format. PDF/E comes with the support of interactive media, including animations and 3D engineering model data.


PDF/VT, published as ISO 16612-2 in August 2010 as a standard, is designed to enable variable document printing (VDP) in a variety of environments. The standard makes Variable information and Transactional printing as its basis for the standard. The Variable data printing is used where part of information is different for each recipient of the content. The Transactional printing includes invoices, statements and other documents that combine billing information with marketing information. This results in a mix of improved processing of images, text and other content types. PDF/VT enables reliable and dynamic management of pages for High Volume Transactional Output (HVTO) print data by using the document part metadata (DPM) concept. PDF/VT files can be opened in Adobe Acrobat viewer without the need of adding any other component.


PDF/X is an ISO 15930 standard published in 2001 with a subset of PDF functionality. The standard was established and published based on specific requirements of the printing and publishing industries. The requirements for this standard were all devised as per the diverse needs of printing and publishing industries. PDF/X requires the conforming files to be complete i.e. self-contained. This requires that elements like fonts used in the page should be part of the document. Contents such as 3D or video cannot be a part of PDF/X document. The information contained in PDF/X document requires it to be accurate.

See Also

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