PDF/A-3 lets you embed any file into your PDF document

The basic cornerstone of PDF/A is simple: to create a universal archiving standard so that documents always retain their original format—even in an unforeseeable future where technology is always evolving.

Since its rollout, two more updates have been added: PDF/A-2 and PDF/A-3, released in 2011 and 2012, respectively. PDF/A-2 allowed valid PDF/A files to be embedded.

PDF/A-3 really only adds a single feature, but it’s an important one. It enables users to embed any files into a PDF. This includes files, such as CAD, CSV, XML, images, and binary executables. This addition creates many new applications. With PDF/A-3, your PDF can act as a delivery vehicle or container for any file type. In essence, PDF becomes a zip archive.

Embedded files fall into one of three types:


SOURCE – used for converting files like Microsoft Office, Open Office, and LibreOffice into a long-term and safe PDF/A file. SOURCE is also used for industry-specific applications. You can embed a DWG file created through a CAD program, for example, as well. In work environments where only select personnel have access to CAD for accessing DWG files, others can use a PDF viewer like Foxit PDF Reader to display the file as a PDF/A.

SUPPLEMENT – Also known as DATA, SUPPLEMENT is the type for embedding every bit of information related to a particular document. In an office environment, this may entail, for example, a MindMap graphic where meeting minutes are converted to PDF/A.

ALTERNATIVE – Use this type for embedding XML files, such as in electronic invoicing and billing purposes.

Email Archiving

PDF/A is commonly used for converting emails into a long-term archiving format that’s safe for recordkeeping. The contents of the email, including attachments, are converted into a single sequential file. This, however, doesn’t always preserve the original format of the email body and the contents of the attachments. PDF/A-3 solves this issue by enabling archiving of emails in its original form, including attachments.

Because Foxit PhantomPDF 8.0 supports PDF/A, you can easily embed and convert files of any type and make the content accessible across the workforce. A handy feature in the form of a red point lets users know that a specific PDF container has embedded files in it. Then, they can use their favorite PDF viewer (hopefully, Foxit PDF Reader) to open the archive, easy-peasy.

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