Portable Document Format

trademark (PDF, PDF-A, abbr.) A file format developed by Adobe Systems that can be used to distribute formatted output, including text and graphics, from a variety of applications to users working on a variety of platforms.


The PDF format can be created using a variety of authoring tools, including Acrobat. The format can be read using the freely distributed Adobe Reader (previously called Acrobat Reader), which is both a stand-alone application and a plug-in for browsers. PDF is not perfectly platform-independent as it requires a reader to render the file, although reader software exists for most platforms. PDF-A is an extension of the format intended to be appropriate for the long-term preservation of digital documents. See http://www.aiim.org/standards.asp?ID=25013.


LeFurgy 2003 A committee of government, business, and academic representatives is exploring a promising approach to long-term preservation of text-based digital documents. Sponsored by The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies (NPES), the committee is working to establish an archival standard for Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF). Known as PDF-A, the potential standard intends to specify a limited, stable subset of PDF for text-based documents that must remain valid for a number of years. The effort has been underway since 2002, and the ultimate aim is to have PDF-A endorsed and owned by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).