If you deal with digital records retention, you are familiar with PDF/A. It is an ISO standard established in 2005 for long-term preservation of documents.
Aren't all PDFs already designed to look the same way on any computer? No, not necessarily. In the distant future, technology will change so much that so archiving cannot make assumptions we can today. Future readers of today's documents may not have access to Times New Roman, DivX video encoding, or AES encryption algorithms. The PDF/A format archives documents by embedding all the pieces necessary for faithful reproduction (such as fonts) while forbidding other elements (including encryption)
Note: For years OpenOffice.org has supported PDF export directly (no conversion required), and now OpenOffice.org 2.4.0 supports PDF/A export.
How to use
- Open a Writer, Calc, Draw, or Impress document.
- Click File > Export.
- Check the checkbox PDF/A-1.
- Click the Export button.
The PDF/A standard itself forbids forms, security, and encryption features. Also, the Tagged PDF option is disabled because it is mandatory.
I tested the feature using OpenOffice.org 2.4 against a blank document and against the OpenDocument v1.0 (Second Edition) specification as a reference document. Comparing a PDF/A against a OpenOffice.org 2.3.1 PDF, there was little difference in speed or file size that could be attributed to the new feature. However, there was a significant difference in file size (3MB vs 12MB) because of the tags required for PDF/A.
I submitted a document to the pdfaPilot PDF/A Online Demo for validation, and it passed as PDF/A-1a and PDF/A-1b.
Microsoft Office by itself cannot create PDF/A documents. In fact, Microsoft Office 2007 requires an add-in to create any PDF documents. OpenOffice.org provides an excellent solution for Microsoft Office users faced with the prospect of paying for Adobe Acrobat Professional or Print2PDF. PDFCreator 0.9.5 does create PDF/A documents, and because it only loosely integrates, PDFCreator cannot generate PDFs with certain features such as PDF bookmarks. Neither PDF995 nor CutePDF support PDF/A. Meanwhile, OpenOffice.org works well and is a free download.
Archiving with open source software.
As a side note, free and open source software provides additional benefits for long-term archiving. Software such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Acrobat require special licenses which complicate archiving. On the other hand, most Linux distributions offer two things: (1) a complete end-to-end environment free of license hassles and (2) complete source code for later adaptation. In the future, there won't be any 32-bit hardware, but open source software will easy to virtualize when necessary.