Adobe Seeks ISO Certification for PDF Format

Adobe Systems is moving to have its Portable Document Format (PDF) Version 1.7 specification certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) global standards-setting body.

In the first step in what typically is a time consuming process, Adobe will release the PDF specs to the AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) international document management organization, which has formed a joint committee to identify additional issues pertinent to the ISO process.

Adobe will then develop a draft document that will be presented to a joint working group of ISO for approval as an ISO standard. The PDF file format is more commonly known as Acrobat.

AIIM is the administrator of several specialized ISO standard subsets of PDF, and holds the secretariat for the ISO Technical Committee 171 and 171 SC2 for document management applications. It is also the administrator for the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to ISO TC 171 that represents the United States at international meetings.

A Long Road

Clearly, it is a long and arduous process to attain ISO certification. It can take anywhere from one year to five or more years, depending on how many vendors are involved in the consensus-building process, how much industry support has lined up behind Adobe, the size of the working group and the size of the industry.

John Mancini, president of AIIM, said his organization was pleased to receive the proposal from Adobe.

“Over the last several years, we have seen and in many cases helped facilitate a range of ongoing market and customer focused efforts around PDF,” he stated. “These efforts have grown so broadly that it now makes sense for Adobe to let the full specification serve as a unifying umbrella and submit it for approval under the formal ISO standards process.”

For vendors, of course, the benefits of having one globally accepted standard are clear.

“Corporations place a heavy weight on an ISO standard,” Tom Klaff, CEO of the electronic documents security firm Surety, told TechNewsWorld. Surety contributed to the development of an ISO standard in this particular space. No company wants to be beholden to a proprietary system that cannot interoperate with other, related components or processes, he said.

Users Will Benefit

The same is true in the PDF ecosystem, according to Sarah Rosenbaum, director of product management for Adobe.

“Many of our core customers are in regulated industries and governments around the world, leveraging PDF for mandated uses, such as court filings or new drug submissions,” she told TechNewsWorld. “These governments and organizations are increasingly specifying file formats maintained by standards bodies.”

Having one standard will make it easier for customers to comply with the mandated uses, she added.

Nevertheless, there are other reasons why users are hoping to see the industry coalesce around one specification.

“Adobe’s move makes sense,” Lisa Calhoun, president of Write2Market, told TechNewsWorld. “It’s like having a cell phone that can run on different networks or cars with the same body chassis width. Until you have a document that doesn’t fit the norms, you don’t realize how important it is. If your content is portable, you might as well pitch it along with your substantial investment in creating it.”

Write2Market clients range from midmarket leaders such qs AIS Media, Infosurv and VoiceNation, to Fortune 500 organizations such as ADP and Heartland Rehabilitation Services. The documentation the company provides them has to live in their enterprise and “play nice” across not only the network, but also their content management systems, storage systems, back up and recovery systems, and dozens of different types of stationary as well as mobile workstations, she added.

Write2Market uses PDF as its standard in anything provided to the customer, Calhoun concluded. “Our custom in-house software, Maestra, uses Word to draft documents, press releases, and the other copy we generate — but once clients approve a document as final, our system converts it to PDF for storage in their document archive.”

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