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About the Portable Document Format

Flyer icon.The Portable Document Format (commonly known as “PDF”) is a file format developed in the early 1990s as a way to share computer documents, including text formatting and inline images.

PDF technology was designed to allow for presentation of documents independent of the application software, operating system and hardware used to create them. PDF files encapsulate a complete description of a fixed-layout document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it. PDF files may also include a wide variety of other content, from hyperlinks to metadata to logical structure to JavaScript and attached files, that allow the format to meet a wide variety of functional and workflow requirements for electronic documents.

The PDF specification

From 1993 until 2007 the PDF specification (known at that time as the “PDF Reference”) was published in eight editions (1.0 to 1.7) by Adobe Systems. To promote widespread adoption from the outset, Adobe made these documents freely available and their use royalty-free.

In 2008 ISO published Adobe's PDF Reference 1.7 (with minor, non-technical changes) as ISO 32000-1. Under a special one-time agreement between Adobe and ISO, an “Adobe version” of ISO 32000-1 was made available as a free download from Adobe’s website. The PDF Association maintains links to all versions of PDF past and present.

PDF 2.0

In December 2020, ISO published the 2nd edition of PDF 2.0, ISO 32000-2:2020, the current PDF specification.

Starting in April, 2023, a unique collaboration between the PDF Association and leading PDF companies Adobe, Apryse and Foxit made ISO 32000-2 available at no cost. See pdfa.org/sponsored-standards

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