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Files inside PDF

May 2024 by Peter Wyatt (PDF Association)

This article aims to explain the different ways by which PDF stores “files”.

What is meant by a “file” with PDF depends on your viewpoint, and may include notions and expectations derived from how HTML and other formats may do things, some of which differ from the metaphors used by PDF software.

Diverse interfaces foster various end-user understandings of what “files” exist inside any given PDF. This is especially true when we consider the many similar terms in use. Understandings differ or are ambiguous depending on the users’ background, and the terms themselves may have different technical meanings.

Accordingly, end users are sometimes perplexed as to why they cannot simply “download” the JPEG file of a photo in a PDF, or extract a font from PDF viewing software, yet they might be able to extract the embedded spreadsheet they’d attached.

If your role relates to digital preservation or file forensics then accurately understanding the kinds of data that can be in a PDF and how it is stored can be very important.

Microsoft improves accessibility in their PDFs

May 2024 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
PDF in the Wild


Microsoft deepens its investment in Tagged PDF. We talked PDF with NISO. Both Android and iOS improve PDF handling. A major vulnerability was fixed in pdf.js.

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April 2024 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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Hugging Face.AI examines PDF. New PDF support in Android. Google reinvents a 31 year-old PDF feature. FireFox wants you to … Read more

PDF in the Wild

March 2024 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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The latest veraPDF release candidate adds PDF/UA-2 support. LibreOffice creates PDF/A and PDF/UA together. A “white paper” gets PDF wrong, … Read more

PDF in the Wild

February 2024 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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PDF Week Online 2024 week 2 is coming up! Did you know that PDF 2.0 adds ARIA to PDF? How … Read more

PDF in the Wild

January 2024 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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LibreOffice now supports PDF/UA! AI LLMs’ support for PDF is substandard, and is retarding innovation. Yet more misinformation about malware. … Read more

PDF in the Wild

December 2023 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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Verizon is tricked by a fraudulent PDF, a family tree of PDF specifications, veraPDF is tops for the Open Preservation … Read more

PDF in the Wild

November 2023 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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We wanted to know how well ChatGPT processes PDF files. So we signed up for ChatGPT 4.0, the paid version, … Read more

PDF in the Wild

October 2023 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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The PDF Association is perhaps DARPA’s smallest-ever prime contractor. For DARPA’s SafeDocs program, however, it’s also the biggest success story.

PDF in the Wild

September 2023 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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Funky (but legit!) PDF, sneaky malware PDF, poisoned PDF, PDF for LEGO, NASA does PDF… it’s a wild PDF world … Read more

PDF in the Wild

August 2023 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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LLMs and generative artificial intelligence, as much (or more) than everything else computers can do, is subject to the iron … Read more

PDF in the Wild

July 2023 by PDF Association staff (PDF Association)
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The most recent specification of PDF doesn’t limit page size… at all. That’s up to the implementation.

PDF in the Wild

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