PDF Standards Overview

The PDF specification is a formal, open standard – ISO 32000.  ISO 32000 is an umbrella standard for a number of PDF standards types designed to serve the needs of different business professionals at varying stages in the content lifecycle.


Specification or guideline Purpose Description
ISO 32000
The umbrella standard
“Conventional” PDF for a broad range of uses
Contains the complete PDF specification and supersedes the 1.7 edition of the Adobe PDF Reference. This standard will become the foundation for all future generations of derivative standards.
ISO press release
ISO 32000 specification
ISO 32000-2:2017 specification update
ISO 19005
Records managers, archivists, compliance managers
Provides specifications for the creation, viewing, and printing of digital documents used for long-term preservation. PDF/A preserves and protects final documents of record as self-contained files. It does not allow references to external content since those items may not exist in the future. PDF/A-1 is based on PDF v1.4. PDF/A-2 is under development.
ISO 19005 specification
PDF/A resource page
ETSI TS 102 778
PDF digital signatures in the European Union
Anyone who needs document-based signatures to enable electronic processes
Provides a standard that will facilitate more secure paperless business transactions throughout Europe, in conformance with European legislation. Maintained by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), ETSI TS 102 778 builds upon the ISO 32000 standard to define a series of profiles for PAdES — PDF Advanced Electronic Signatures that comply with European Directive 1999/93/EC.
ETSI press release
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
ISO 24517
Architects, engineers, construction professionals, manufacturing product teams
Provides specifications for the creation, viewing, and printing of documents used in engineering workflows. PDF/E facilitates the exchange of documentation and drawings to share with others in the supply chain or streamline review and markup. It specifies PDF settings suitable for building, manufacturing, and geospatial workflows and supports interactive media, including animation and 3D. PDF/E-1 is based on PDF v1.6.
ISO 24517 specification
Creating PDF/E-ready files (PDF: 1.5M )
ISO 14289
Universal access
People with disabilities, IT managers in government or commercial enterprises, compliance managers
Provides a set of guidelines for creating PDF files that are universally accessible. PDF/UA files enhance the readability of a document for people with disabilities, such as vision impairment or limited mobility. These guidelines can be used in conjunction with a wide variety of other PDF file creation settings.