Adobe to release PDF for industry standardization FAQ

General questions

What did Adobe announce regarding PDF?
Adobe announced its intent to release the full PDF 1.7 specification to the International Standards Organization (ISO) via AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association.
Isn’t Adobe PDF already a standard?
The contribution of the full PDF specification to a standards organization is part of the evolution of PDF as an open standard. Since Adobe first published the complete PDF specification for use without restriction in 1993, PDF has become a de facto standard. Both government and private industry have come to rely on PDF for the vast and rapidly growing volumes of electronic records that need to be reliably shared, managed, and in some cases preserved for generations. Since 1995, Adobe has participated in various working groups that develop technical specifications for publication by ISO and has worked within the ISO process to deliver specialized subsets of PDF as standards for specific industries and functions. Today, PDF/Archive (PDF/A) and PDF/Exchange (PDF/X) are ISO standards, and PDF for Engineering (PDF/E) and PDF for Universal Access (PDF/UA) are proposed standards. Additionally, PDF for Healthcare (PDF/H) is an AIIM proposed Best Practice Guide. AIIM serves as the administrator for PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA, and PDF/H. The range of these ongoing market and customer-focused efforts has become so broad that it now makes sense to let the full specification serve as a unifying umbrella.
Why is Adobe taking this step with PDF?
PDF has become a de facto global standard for more secure and dependable information exchange since Adobe published the complete PDF specification in 1993. Both government and private industry have come to rely on PDF for the volumes of electronic records that need to be more securely and reliably shared, managed, and in some cases preserved for generations. Adobe expects this release to ISO to drive even broader adoption of PDF, accelerate innovation around PDF, and help ensure that PDF will continue to meet the unique needs of government and private industry alike.
Is this a change in strategy for Adobe?
Adobe's core business strategy is to drive growth through broad adoption of its technologies, and an open approach has always been an important part of that strategy. Throughout its 25-year history, Adobe has been an industry leader in open approaches with technology. Starting with its first product, Adobe® PostScript®, in 1982, Adobe has created open specifications for the languages and file formats it develops. With PDF, Adobe has also worked with international standards organizations to deliver ISO standards for specific industries and functions, such as PDF/A, PDF/X, PDF/E, and PDF/UA.
Why hasn't Adobe released the full PDF specification to a standards organization previously?
PDF has evolved rapidly to include support for web technologies, rich media, and XML, and Adobe has been committed to maintaining its backwards compatibility with the first versions of Adobe Acrobat® and free Adobe Reader® software. At the same time, because Adobe made the specification public and Adobe Reader freely available, PDF became ubiquitous. A community of developers arose that build PDF file creation, viewing, and manipulation tools to meet a variety of business needs. At this point in the development of PDF, it makes sense to extend its openness by working through a formal standards process. To date, Adobe has focused external standards efforts on specific industries and functions and has published the PDF specification for broader use. With the recent release of the 1.7 specification, it now makes sense to let the full specification serve as a unifying umbrella.
Will Adobe continue to innovate and grow the PDF file format?
Absolutely, with the added benefit of stakeholder input via the standards organization. Adobe Acrobat and LiveCycle® software are important businesses for Adobe, and PDF will continue to evolve through our ongoing investment in innovation as demonstrated by PDF 1.7. Adobe has stewarded the PDF specification since 1993, evolving the PDF file format based on customer needs, and it will continue to do so in the future.
What does this mean for the PDF ecosystem and companies that make PDF file creation tools?
It will open new opportunities because it will broaden adoption and acceptance of PDF, accelerate new solutions development, and ensure greater interoperability among PDF implementations.

ISO PDF standards submissions questions

When will Adobe release the PDF specification and to what organization?
Adobe released the full PDF 1.7 specification to AIIM in mid-June 2007 for the purpose of publication by ISO.
Did Adobe release the entire PDF specification to AIIM/ISO?
The submitted ISO PDF specification is the complete Adobe PDF 1.7 specification and related errata. The ISO specification removes all specific product or company references and is formatted according to the ISO document template and styling rules.
Why did Adobe choose AIIM? What is AIIM?
AIIM is an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) accredited standards development organization. AIIM also holds the Secretariat for the ISO (International Standards Organization) committee focused on information management compliance issues, TC 171. (TC 171 is the current ISO committee that developed the existing ISO standards relating to PDF/A and PDF/E.) Accordingly, AIIM is an authority that ANSI uses to submit proposed standards to ISO.
Is AIIM the only organization that will be working on the PDF standard with ISO?
AIIM is the international organization in liaison with ISO. However, ANSI, the member body of ISO, holds the Secretariats for ISO/TC 171 and ISO/TC 171/SC 2, which are administered by AIIM.
Who will be included in the standards organization's working group?
Working groups generally include representatives from industry, government, and education. Like the PDF/A working group — which includes representatives from the U.S. Courts, NARA, the IRS, the Library of Congress, and other government organizations, as well as industry members such as Intel, Adobe, and EMC/Documentum — it is anticipated that the standards working group will be composed of a similarly varied group.
When will that work begin?
The work began with the submission of the PDF 1.7 ISO Draft in mid-June 2007 to AIIM. ISO issued a 5-month DIS Ballot on July 2, 2007. From July to ballot close in December 2007, the various national bodies from the countries that are ISO members had the opportunity to review the Draft and submit comments.
How long does the full submission process take — from initial submission through approval?
The overall time it takes to ratify an ISO standard varies. The first part of the ISO 32000 standard was submitted under the ISO fast track process, which can take up to 12 months to publication. The standard process usually takes between 2 -3 years.
Why does Adobe qualify for the ISO fast track process?
The PDF specification has been publicly available since 1993. There are billions of files in existence today that comply with the Adobe PDF 1.7 specification, and there are thousands of products that support PDF. PDF has become a de facto standard given the multiple implementations that have been created through referencing this Adobe specification. Additionally, ISO has standardized functional sets of PDF, including, PDF/A (ISO 19005), PDF/E (ISO 24517), and PDF/X (ISO 15930).
When will the first new PDF standard come from ISO?
Ratification by the Technical Committee and Publication by ISO are separate events, and it usually takes ISO a few months after the standard has been ratified to officially publish the standard. ISO 32000-1 was published on July 2, 2008 by ISO.
What will the new standard be called?
It is titled "ISO 32000 — Document Management — Portable Document Format — PDF 1.7."
Will the standard be an ISO standard?
Yes, the intention was to replicate the path taken by other PDF-based ISO standards, such as ISO 19005 (PDF/A), to work within ISO's standards development process.
Where is PDF in the ISO process right now?
The Draft specification was published as an ISO standard, ISO 32000-1:2008, on July 2, 2008. The Technical Committee (TC 171) is currently working on the second edition of the standard, which is estimated to go into publication some time between 2010 & 2011.
What is Adobe's involvement once the standard is published?
PDF continues to be very important to Adobe. As a member of the U.S. Committee, Adobe will remain involved in subsequent releases of ISO PDF standards and will continue to innovate and offer PDF extensions to enable new technologies and practices.
How does this announcement affect Adobe's current software development kits (SDKs) that are related to Acrobat or Adobe PDF?
This announcement will not affect the existing PDF and Acrobat development environments that Adobe offers today, such as the Acrobat SDK, the Adobe PDF Library SDK, or other similar development environments and the programs that support these offerings.
How does this affect the current version of PDF?
ISO 32000-1:2008 is based on the PDF 1.7 Reference that was published at the end of 2006. The evolution of versions of PDF after 1.7 will be the responsibility of ISO with Adobe as an active contributor to the ISO work/definition.
Does this have any impact on the existing PDF-based standards (such as PDF/A, PDF/X)?
No, those standards will continue to be maintained and developed by working groups within the ISO standards development process. These standards were developed to address industry requirements and are subsets of the PDF specification; they will continue to be revised and updated as required. With the standardization of the larger reference specification, the controlling standards body may choose to combine standard activities into a larger effort.
Does Adobe currently charge a licensing fee for using the PDF specification?
Ever since Adobe first published the PDF specification in 1993, it has been provided without licensing fees. This continues with the PDF version 1.7 specification.
How does Adobe plan to license the PDF specification it is submitting to AIIM?
Upon approval of the Draft for publication as an ISO standard, Adobe planned to issue a royalty-free license or covenant not to sue, permitting developers to implement PDF under all of Adobe's patent claims that are essential to implement PDF in a compliant manner.
Is the planned license or covenant not to sue royalty free?
Yes. Click here to view the Public Patent License for ISOA 3200-1:2008
Why is the ISO fast track process appropriate for PDF?
ISO rules allow any affiliated organization, such as AIIM, to propose "an existing standard" for fast track. PDF is an existing de facto standard, and with Adobe's permission, AIIM submitted PDF to ISO Technical Committee 171 for fast track processing. Adobe has made PDF freely available for anyone to implement since 1993. Consequently, many thousands of software developers have experience with the PDF specification, and hundreds of companies currently offer thousands of products that rely on PDF. PDF is very well understood throughout the technology world. The ISO fast track process was designed specifically for mature, widely used specifications like PDF.
What about a consortium, such as ECMA, that also stewards standards? Why not release PDF to them?
One important use of a PDF standard is as the base standard for PDF/A, PDF/E, and PDF/UA. Having PDF standardized in the same technical committee enables close linkage and shared management. Adobe considered other organizations, given the company's involvement with many standards organizations and consortia, such as ECMA. It was determined that ISO would best benefit customers because of the entrenched status of PDF in a variety of industries. ISO technical committees guarantee openness and have a straightforward path to standardization and maintenance that spans decades. Use of PDF is very broad based, and the technical committee (TC 171) is well equipped to respect the interests of that broad base.
What is Adobe's position with respect to the establishment of ODF and OOXML as open document standards?
ODF and OOXML are input formats designed for authoring documents. Those formats favor editing over preserving an exact final presentation. PDF is primarily used as an output document, designed for distribution and markup, and it favors exact final presentation over editing. PDF thus enables either of these authoring formats to be used to deliver a consistent and complete distribution of a document, keeping the exact appearance intended by the authors.
Will Adobe technologically favor OOXML or ODF in some way?
PDF plays a major role in completing the workflow that can start with either of these authoring formats. Accordingly, any office productivity software products that use OOXML and ODF will continue to be able to work with PDF to create and deliver the final distribution format.
How well will Adobe's technology work with OOXML/ODF and vice versa?
Since PDF is a delivery — or document distribution — format, it works equally well with either of these document-authoring formats. Of course, PDF implementations may vary from vendor to vendor.
Is Adobe trying to stop OOXML or XPS ratifications?
OOXML is a ratified and accepted ECMA standard, which Adobe, as a GA member of ECMA, voted to accept. However, since Adobe, as the leader in document distribution formats, is undertaking the standardization of PDF, we are monitoring the XPS standardization efforts but do not feel it is necessary or helpful to comment on those efforts.
What are the odds that PDF will become an ISO standard?
Adobe's decision to turn PDF over to an open public standards organization (ISO) should be very good for everyone. PDF is a mature, well-established de facto standard, and we think the odds are excellent that ISO 32000 will become a reality.
Who decides if PDF becomes an ISO standard, and how do they decide?
ISO is made up of member countries; some of those countries are voting members and some are only observing. For the current ISO 32000 Draft ballot, there are 14 voting countries, and their votes will determine if ISO 32000 Draft is approved as an ISO standard.
Since Adobe supplies the most commonly used PDF products, what is to stop Adobe from ignoring the ISO standard and going off in its own direction with PDF?
Adobe's products will remain conformant to the ISO PDF standard, once approved. Adobe will also continue to innovate and offer PDF extensions to enable new technologies and practices within its own implementation. Adobe will work to incorporate ideas it has for improving PDF into subsequent versions of the ISO standard.
What is Microsoft’s position on PDF becoming an ISO standard?
Microsoft is better suited to answer a question relating to their position on PDF becoming an ISO standard. However, the ability to contribute to the evolution of PDF as a public standard should be an advantage to any company, including Microsoft.
Is Adobe doing anything to manipulate the ISO PDF process?
Adobe chose to work directly through ISO to create a true international standard. Adobe has not asked for any ISO process changes, nor does it expect to need any such changes. Adobe will work with the committees as the process goes forward, at the same levels as any other involved company.
For Adobe, what are the main benefits of standardizing PDF through ISO?
Adobe believes that PDF has reached a level of worldwide adoption at which allowing any interested party to have a voice in its further evolution will, in fact, promote more interest in all PDF products, including those from Adobe.
How important is this effort in comparison with Adobe's overall strategy moving forward?
PDF remains a major element in Adobe's strategy. Adobe will continue to offer the best-of-breed implementations and world-class tools that support PDF. The release of PDF to ISO also clearly demonstrates that Adobe supports public standards and openness.
Where can I find more information about the PDF standards process?
For details on the PDF standards process and timeline, please contact the following individuals:
Nora Calvillo    408-536-3050;
Dave McAllister    408-536-3881;
For technical questions, please contact:
Jim King    408-536-4944;

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