PDF/A Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to create PDF/A documents?
Some of the word processing products available today already have the built-in capability to
save files in PDF/A format. Some of these products are listed on our
Introduction to PDF/A page as well as free
products that can be used as printing software to create a
PDF. You may select the links provided to see examples of what you need to do.
Many PDF/A Compliant Products are available and a good source of
information is the Association for Information and Image Management website (AIIM.org).
Various PDF product vendors can also be found at the PDF
Page. The Judicial Branch does not recommend any particular products.
What is PDF/A?
PDF/A is an International Standards
Organization (ISO) standard document format. PDF/A documents are self-contained and do not rely on or
access information outside of the document itself to display the
information contained within the document. Accordingly, the PDF
document appears, and will continue to appear, identical to the
document from which it was created, no matter where or when it
is accessed. As a result, most PDF/A documents will have a
slightly larger file size.
PDF/A is a subset of
the PDF standard which excludes those PDF features that give
rise to concerns about security and the ability to archive
documents. More information about PDF/A can be found at
the PDF Association website
and at AIIM.
Why does the Judicial Branch
need to move to PDF/A for its e-filed documents?
To reduce security risks and to improve
the compatibility of documents for long-term storage purposes. Since its inception in
2004, e-filing has required that documents be filed in PDF
format. Over the years, some readability issues have been
discovered such as fonts being used that new computers may not
have and there have also been features added/identified in
standard PDF that are undersirable for security reasons. PDF/A
was created to eliminate those problems and also to enhance the ability
to ensure long-term readability of the documents.
When will the Judicial Branch
require that all documents filed in e-filing be in PDF/A format?
The Judicial Branch has not yet set a
deadline for requiring all electronic files to be uploaded in a
PDF/A format, however all users are encouraged to begin to
transition their filings to this new standard as soon as
Which PDF/A format should filers use: 1a or 1b?
PDF/A-1a is preferred; PDF/A-1b meets
the minimum requirement. Users with the option from a word
processing program should select PDF/A-1a if possible.
PDF/A-1a requires structure in a document (which
describes the contents of the document) and is best to use for electronic documents. PDF/A-1b
does not require structure in a document and is best to use for
scanned documents or documents where the structure is unknown.
How does the PDF/A requirement affect Mac users?
Microsoft Word 2008 for Mac cannot create PDF/A documents, but
can create PDF documents which can be converted to PDF/A.
Alternately, a Mac user can install and use OpenOffice, which is
available for free; see
OpenOffice settings for PDF/A.
Do I need to retain my original source document in my
word processor or file system after I have converted it to a
As mentioned above,
it is easier to modify your original document and then save it
as a PDF/A document again if needed than it is to try and modify
a document that has been saved as PDF/A.
Do I need to retain my original
source document in my word processor or file system after I have
converted it to a PDF/A document?
It is easier to modify your original source document and then
save it as a PDF/A document again if needed than it is to try
and modify a document that has been saved as PDF/A.