PDF standards not all mutually exclusive


PDF is available in various iterations that include PDF/A, PDF/UA, PDF/X, PDF/E, and PDF/VT, all of which fall under ISO standards. Each type serves a different function to fulfill various industry-specific needs. The various formats, though, are not mutually exclusive. Some intersections exist among them. Here are some examples.


PDF/A is the universal standard for PDF archiving. This ensures users can access PDF documents in their original layout many years down the road. To meet PDF/A standards, files have to be self-contained and cannot have insecure or active content. Level A, which is the conformance level of PDF/A, also meets these characteristics for accessibility:

  • Unicode
  • Language details
  • Tagged PDF
  • Structure tree (hierarchy)

Essentially, this means PDF/A Level A files can concurrently meet PDF/UA requirements for across-the-board access to PDF files.


Some people call PDF/A the format for “electronic paper.” You could also say that about a subset of PDF/X. PDF/X is the ISO standard for printing. This version can also meet PDF/A requirements. This is in part because both versions do not allow video, audio, or any embedded material that can affect the printout. Mandatory content under PDF/X, such as page size and trimming data, is acceptable under PDF/A.


Of course, PDF can conform to other PDF standards, such as PDF/X, PDF/A, or PDF/E.  If you open a PDF that conforms to one of these standards, you can view the standards information with PhantomPDF. To do so, choose Convert > Industry Standard > Verify compliance > Analyze.



It’s a good thing that PDF ISO standards are not mutually exclusive. This eliminates the need for multiple and redundant versions of the same PDF files.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *