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Making it easy to convert for long-term archiving

Christian Schiller // August 8, 2023

PDF/A Member News

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The growing importance of digital long-term archiving in companies cannot be overstated – and not just in terms of fulfilling legal requirements and retention times. Data and documents are simply more relevant than ever and preserving these securely is a necessity to keep your organization viable in the future. In Germany, for example, business records, including invoices and contracts, must be retained for up to ten years. Likewise, there are also industry-specific retention policies for documents in the realms of the public sector, healthcare, and construction – to name just a few.

The criteria for digital long-term archiving

This means that companies must carefully consider how best to preserve and store their business records over the long term. Because the content must be rendered exactly as the original at all times, the data archiving method chosen will be subject to stringent specifications and has to fulfill these archiving criteria:

  • Open standard (specified open as necessary) and non-proprietary format
  • Widely distributed
  • Low complexity
  • No access protection mechanisms, such as copy protection or encryption
  • Self-documenting
  • Robust
  • Not dependent on other file formats
  • No license required
  • Can be readily validated

PDF/A as the archiving format standard

PDF/A has long since become the archiving format standard following the ISO publishing it as the first file format standard for electronic long-term preservation under the name “ISO 19005-1:2005“ back in 2005.

“Normal” PDF files are inadequate for long-term archiving because they can be edited and modified. A PDF/A file, on the other hand, ensures that the all the criteria and stipulations are met. Since the content must remain accessible at all times, documents intended for long-term preservation may not, for example, be password protected. Furthermore, and because you have to purposely omit anything that may require external software to display or play back, no video or audio files may be embedded. Even JavaScript is not permitted when archiving documents.

Where PDF/A is used for long-term archiving

Unfortunately, the paperless office is not the everyday reality within all businesses. Paper-based documents, files and records still have to be scanned before they can be digitized and archived over the long term in electronic form.

Incoming emails with document attachments, along with all letter mail received, must be retained for a period of ten years just like all the other Office-type documents (text files, spreadsheets, presentations and so forth). Even brochures and magazines originating from layout programs or editorial systems must also be converted to PDF/A for preservation.

With the introduction of PDF/A-3, image files and complex CAD drawings can be embedded in their original format in a PDF/A file, thus eliminating the need for any hybrid archiving of the PDF document together with the original file.

Converting to PDF/A format – remarkably simple with webPDF

The need for long-term archiving is clear and PDF/A is used widely throughout the world as the archiving format standard. Many businesses face the challenge of how to get their documents into this PDF/A format in the most efficient manner possible. After all, they should not have to expend a lot of time and effort converting the widest possible range of source formats directly to PDF/A for preservation.

Converting different formats, such as doc, xls, ppt, docx, xlsx, pptx, odt, ods and odp, into PDF/A is easier than you think – when you use the right tool. Here is where webPDF makes matters incredibly easy.

webPDF and its PDF/A conversion feature makes it fast and easy to transfer documents in PDF format to an archiving system. The automated conversion is done using the server and without having to access the source software. It can be configured precisely and is undeniably efficient.

A quick look at the key benefits of webPDF for converting to PDF/A:

  • webPDF converts documents in more than 100 file formats directly to a PDF/A file while making all the necessary corrections and amendments.
  • Supports all conformance levels (A - Accessible, B - Basic and U - Unicode).
  • On request, the PDF engine can also verify compliance with the established standards for PDF/A-1 (ISO 19005-1:2005), PDF/A-2 (ISO 19005-2:2011) and PDF/A-3 (ISO 19005-2:2012).
  • webPDF can also prepare detailed reports in XML format.

Find out more about webPDF

PDF/A is and will remain the sustainable archiving format standard

Companies benefit from this ISO standard because it helps them comply with the statutory requirements governing digital files. PDF/A is the long-term archiving format of choice – and for good reasons. Experts have been enhancing and improving PDF/A and its conformance levels for more than a decade. Experience shows that once something becomes the de facto standard, it does not suddenly disappear from the market. Experts, including those here at, agree that PDF/A will continue to meet future requirements and be the format that private and public sector users can rely on with confidence. The fact that Microsoft now allows PDF/A documents to be created directly from within its Office suite of products is just one more indication that PDF/A is more than just a passing fad.

SoftVision Development GmbH, based in Fulda – in the heart of Germany, specialises in software development and has been supporting companies in all sectors for many years with innovative software solutions that ensure reliability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Customers across all industries and company sizes trust in our products webPDF, n2pdf…

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Christian Schiller

Christian Schiller

Managing Director at SoftVision Development GmbH