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Visibility into the ISO pipeline for PDF standards

A new resource collating all ISO groups and currently active work items related to PDF has been developed. Based on public information, this summary is invaluable for all PDF developers to ensure awareness of forthcoming changes in PDF-related standards.
About the author: As CEO of the PDF Association and as an ISO Project Leader, Duff coordinates industry activities, represents industry stakeholders in a variety of settings and promotes the advancement and adoption of … Read more
Duff Johnson

Duff Johnson, Peter Wyatt
March 30, 2020


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Unless you are actively involved in the development of PDF standards, knowing what is currently under development, the status of the work and keeping track of everything can be very confusing. This article focuses on the ISO portion of the standards process, work that often occurs after preparation of proposed standard’s text in less formal environments, such as the Technical Working Groups of the PDF Association.

PDF standards are developed under formal ISO processes in various Technical Committees using a consensus-based approach, with every standard moving through a number of stages on it’s way to final publication as an International Standard (IS) (as described here by ISO).

To assist all PDF Association members and the broader PDF community, a new pdfa.org web resource has been developed summarizing all ISO groups and currently active work items related to PDF. This information has been conveniently collated from public information from the ISO website (iso.org), and is invaluable for all PDF developers so that they are aware of forthcoming changes in PDF-related standards. The PDF Association will maintain this information over time.

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Public availability of draft standards

An important part of the development of any international standard is the public review period, just prior to finalization and publication. In ISO terminology this is referred to as a “Draft International Standard” (DIS) or “Enquiry stage” where the document is publicly available (albeit at a cost) from ISO, and final comments can be received from national bodies. This is especially true for large and complex technical standards such as PDF 2.0, but all standards benefit from the additional scrutiny of a wider audience. Of course, those who have been involved in the development of a standard to that point are expected to continue their detailed reviews as a DIS is very near publication.

DIS drafts are feature-complete. That is, any comments on a DIS should be limited to editorial and minor corrections or clarifications. The DIS is not an occasion to add new features or significant new wording.

Logo for ISO standard.In general, the more technical or significant the change, the more lead-time is required to assess and test it because acceptance into a specification. Accordingly, the best way to have your input considered is to provide it well before the DIS stage is reached. The best way to get the pre-DIS drafts is to join the PDF Association and leverage its Category A liaison status with ISO to access all committee documents for free.

In alignment with the public availability of the updated revision to PDF 2.0 (ISO/DIS 32000-2), a number of PDF-related ISO standards have also achieved DIS status and are also available for public comment:

  • PDF/A-4 is the latest part in the PDF/A (ISO 19005 series) which adds long-term preservation support for PDF 2.0.
  • PDF/X-6 is the latest part in the PDF/X (ISO 15930 series) which adds support for PDF 2.0 in graphic art workflows.
  • PDF/R-1 is a new ISO standard based on the PDF Association’s PDF/raster 1.0 industry specification.
  • ISO/DIS 21757-1 is a new ISO publication defining ECMAscript for PDF 2.0 covering both 2D and 3D, and has been based on the Adobe JavaScript documentation.

Other PDF-related ISO standards (such as PDF/UA-2, PDF/VT-3 and others) will also soon achieve DIS status, so keep an eye on this new ISO status page for updates and an opportunity to comment on public drafts.

We look forward to your comments!

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