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5 PDF File Formats You Should Know

5 PDF File Formats You Should Know

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January 5, 2023

What do we know about PDF file formats and what benefits do they offer?
With the constant transition to the digital age, more and more people today rely on electronic documents. When discussing document file formats, PDF tops the list. In 1993, Adobe released the first PDF file format. Since then, many other variations of this well-known format have appeared, each with its own application. You are about to learn about them in this article.

PDF file formats

Table of Contents

There are a total of five PDF standards defined by the ISO organization. There are also PDF standards from other organizations, but we will not cover them in this article.

What is ISO?

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization, or the company that issues certificates for goods that meet its standards in various fields, including the Portable Document Format (PDF). ISO also sets standards through a complex certification process to ensure quality, reliability and versatility. In other words, the PDF standard for your document depends on how you intend to store, share and use it.

5 Different PDF File Formats

1. PDF/A is a subset of PDF designed for archiving information.
In order to keep the information in the file and ensure that the content looks good even after very long periods of storage, PDF/A sets stricter standards than those used in PDF.
Therefore, the main driving force behind the development of PDFA/A was to meet the needs of long-term archiving.

PDF/A viewers, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, ensure that you can open files saved in this format even in the future.

PDF/A file format
construction professionals

2. PDF/E – PDF/E has been in use since 2008. PDF/E satisfies the different demands of both interactive and passive readers. Architects, engineers, construction professionals, and product development teams most often use this standard because it helps rotate and stack 3D objects on the screen. In addition, the inclusion of 3D engineering model data is a strength of PDF/E because many 3D data are somehow related to design workflows. 

3. The PDF/X standard was developed at the request of the graphics and printing industries to facilitate document sharing. It is a standard that aims to avoid the problems that can occur when exchanging documents needed for seamless graphic production, i.e., professional printing.

professional printing

PDF File Formats You Should Know

4. PDF/VT adds support for color profiles, layers, and transparencies. VT is short for “variable and transactional”. So you can use this format to print everything from credit card bills and bank statements to postcards and personalized catalogs, from college application materials to Christmas greetings and photo albums. And also from labels to tickets and from checks to ID cards.

5. PDF/UA: The UA standard (short for Universal Access) helps people with disabilities access documents. When you open PDF/UA files with the appropriate software, you can open and read them with screen readers, screen magnifiers, joysticks, and other technologies to help visually impaired people access the content.

The UA standard

PDF file formats from ISO – Comparison

Format typePurpose of developmentUsersAdvantages
PDF/AFor long-term file storage.Clerks,
Archivists,
Record managers,
Compliance managers
Provides accurate reproduction of documents and ensures that archive files can be opened even after a long period of time.
PDF/ETo address key issues in the areas of large format drawings and multimedia.Civil engineers,
Architects,
Interior designers,
Construction specialists
Supports design and manufacturing specifications and also supports interactive multimedia, animation and stack 3D objects on the screen.
PDF/XTo ensure that documents are ready to print by correctly applying fonts, images or color profiles.Print professionals,
Graphic designers,
Creative workers
Guarantees that the file will work when sent for professional printing (embedded fonts, no RGB colors, etc.).
PDF/VTFor variable data printing (VDP). From desktop printing to digital production machines.Marketing campaigns,
Financial departments
Maintains color profiles, layers, and transparency in documents and can customize data, making it useful for printing bank statements, invoices, and personalized marketing material.
PDF/UATo improve and ease readability for the visually impaired.People with disabilitiesThis standard is compatible with assistive technologies that help users read and navigate.
By defining the structure of a document using tags, assistive technology can determine the structure and reproduce the content accordingly.

Benefits of using PDF file formats

  • Universal: The PDF format is platform-independent, which means you can open and view a PDF file on any operating system, including Mac, Windows, Linux, and Solaris.
    They are universally compatible, meaning anyone can open and view a PDF file regardless of whether Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed on their computer. The PDF format is also great for creating print-ready business documents.
  • Take up less space: PDF files are smaller documents and take up less hard drive space than other file formats. It can be useful if you need to email large files or upload them to a website. You can also compress these formats well and send them electronically without taking up much space.
  • Secure and protect your data: PDF files are a secure way to send information that may contain personal or sensitive data.
    PDF files can also be password protected, ensuring that only those with the correct password can view the contents of the file. This adds an extra layer of security to your data In addition, PDF files can be signed with an electronic signature, allowing you to verify the authenticity of the document and its sender.
  • Accessibility to a wide audience: PDF files are accessible because they can be opened and read by anyone, no matter what software is installed on their computer or what computer or device they own, including phones and tablets. You can also translate PDFs into other languages, making them accessible to a wide audience.
  • Great for sharing: PDF files are great for sharing and collaboration because they are smaller than other file types and easy to attach to emails or other forms of communication. PDFs are also common in business and among professionals and are easy to create. You can send a PDF file to anyone, and they can view it without any problems.
  • PDF files are more customizable: PDF files are more customizable than other popular document types. You can change the margins, font size, and page orientation of a PDF document without compromising the quality of the document. This is useful when you want to give your document a more professional look.

Сonclusion

In general, each PDF format has its own advantages, including the ability to embed multimedia content, security features, and cross-platform compatibility. In addition, they can be viewed on a variety of devices, making them ideal for sharing and distribution. If you are looking for a way to make your documents more accessible, convenient, and universally compatible, consider PDFs and their varieties. Knowing and understanding each type of PDF format will make your professional work much easier, as well as improve its quality and take it to the next level.

If you want to understand more about each PDF format, check out our other blog articles:

What is PDF/X?

What is PDF/VT?


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