Using Save As to to Conform to PDF/A

PDF/A BadgeIn my earlier articles on PDF/A, I skipped over one of the easier ways to conform an existing PDF document to PDF/A.

Using Save As is perhaps the easiest way to apply the transformations necessary to existing PDFs such as embedding fonts, setting color spaces and the other twenty or so checks that Acrobat can undertake to conform to the PDF/A specification.

In this article, you’ll learn how to:

  • Use Save As in Acrobat X Pro to conform a non-PDF/A file to PDF/A-1b
  • Use Save As in Acrobat 9 Pro to conform a non-PDF/A file to PDF/A-1b

As you might guess, the processes are very similar, but it’s a little easier in Acrobat X. My experience has been that Acrobat X is a bit faster and more reliable for conforming operations.

What’s the difference between creating a PDF/A file and conforming to PDF/A?
Creating a PDF/A File = Converting directly from an electronic source like Word or Excel to PDF/A Conforming to PDF/A = Converting an existing PDF document so it meets all the requirements of PDF/A

 

What "Flavor" of PDF/A should I use for Court Filings?
In my exchanges with US Federal Court officials, they indicated that either PDF/A-1A or PDF/A-1B would be acceptable for eFiling. However, itcan be very challenging to conform files to the much stricter PDF/A-1A specification, so you should conform to PDF/A-1B if you have existing PDFs to submit.

That said, if you are creating PDF from Word or Excel, it is simple matter to create PDF/A-1A files. These "tagged" files are accessible to the visually impaired, so it is a good practice to create PDF/A-1A files if possible. It’s a cinch to do using the PDF Makers installed by Acrobat into Office applications.

 

Using Save As to Conform a PDF to PDF/A-1b in Acrobat X

Follow these steps in Acrobat X . . .

  1. Open a PDF file that you wish to conform to PDF/A
  2. Choose File> Save As> More Options> PDF/A

    Note: You can also choose File>Save As>PDF, then choose PDF/A from the Save As Type menu

  3. The Save As Window appears.
    - Click the Settings button
  4. The Preflight window appears.
    (A) Choose PDF/A-1b for Federal Court Filings
    (B) Check to create according to a PDF/A-1b profile
    (C) Check "Apply Corrections"
    (D) Click the OK button
  5. Click OK again to save and conform the file

Using Save As to Conform a PDF to PDF/A-1b in Acrobat 9 Pro

Follow these steps in Acrobat X . . .

  1. Open a PDF file that you wish to conform to PDF/A
  2. Choose File> Save As> More Options> PDF/A
  3. The Save As Window appears.
    - Click the Settings button
  4. The Preflight window appears.
    (A) Choose PDF/A-1b for Federal Court Filings
    (B) Check to create according to a PDF/A-1b profile
    (C) Check "Apply Corrections"
    (D) Click the OK button
  5. Click OK again to save and conform the file

 

Using Save As to Conform a PDF to PDF/A in Acrobat 9 Pro

Follow these steps in Acrobat X . . .

  1. Open a PDF file that you wish to conform to PDF/A
  2. Choose File> Save As
  3. The Save As Window appears.
    - Choose PDF/A from the Save As type list at the bottom of the window.
  4. Click the Settings button in the Save As window
  5. The Preflight window appears.
    (A) Choose PDF/A-1b for Federal Court Filings
    (B) Check to create according to a PDF/A-1b profile
    (C) Check "Apply Corrections"
    Click the OK button
  6. Click OK again to save and conform the file

What if the file cannot be conformed to PDF/A?

Save As may not be able to conform a file to PDF/A in which case you will see a message similar to this:

There are several issues which could prevent conforming a file to PDF/A-1B:

  1. The document requires fonts that you do not have on your system
  2. The document uses fonts which have a "Do Not Embed" flag
  3. The document has transparent objects
  4. The document is damaged
  5. The document is a XFA Form created with Adobe LiveCycle Designer

I wil be covering fix-ups and workarounds for difficult to conform files in future blog posts..


22 Responses to Using Save As to to Conform to PDF/A

  1. Pingback: Update: What You Need to Know About PDF/A ECF Filings in Federal Court | PIT IP Tech Blog

  2. Mariya says:

    This blog is a treasure, thank you, Rick!
    My company has recently switched to using PDF/A for our electronic records only to discover that the Combine Documents tool heavily used by our records coordinators makes PDF/A files non-compliant with the standard. Conforming the merged PDF is not an option since they only have Adobe Standard. I wonder if there is a way around it (some changes in preferences maybe?) apart from using the old Insert Pages option (a real pain when you have 50 attachments to insert). I’ll appreciate your advice!

    • Rick Borstein says:

      If you want to conform to PDF/A you’ll have to have Pro, unless you are willing to print the PDF back to the PDF Printer Driver and lose all your bookmarks.

  3. Pingback: PDF/A for the long haul | Files That Last

  4. Pingback: The Basics: “Saving As” PDF/A | PDF Association

  5. Alison says:

    Rick, I am getting that error message that you say you will be addressing in future blog posts, but I can find any “future blog posts” – have you done any more on this? I cannot get documents that have been scanned and OCRd to conform and sometimes when I do the print to PDFa, it will change up my custom exhibit sticker stamps. I have flattened the custom stamps, but I still cant get a PDFa compliance pass…any suggestions?

    • Rick Borstein says:

      Sorry, my job role changed a few months ago and I have had little time to work on this. I do agree that the PDF/A conformance area which we need to redesign to make easier.

      • Aaron says:

        Hi Rick. Did anyone ever assume your role or duties here? We are struggling to conform existing PDF’s to PDF/a – we are seeing that error message you discussed. Or, is there another avenue of support we could use to get assistance? Thanks!

  6. Michelle says:

    Hi Rick – Have you covered the fix-ups and workarounds for difficult files? PDF/A has become a major problem for us. Our users went through a domain migration, it seems like sometihing must have been lost in their profiles as no one who was able to covert PDFs to PDF/a before can do it now. We are get the error shown above. We can however covert word docs to PDF/A! We have upgraded to adobe 9pro and some to xpro with no luck. We have the suggested preflight settings. Perflight shows us tons of errors but wont or cannot fix them! I appericate any ideas you might have!

    • Rick Borstein says:

      I don’t have enough details here to help you. You might have your IT folks reinstall Acrobat for you. My guess is that your font set changed and that is why you cannot embed fonts.

  7. Jim says:

    Very nice guidance! Is there a way to apply this approach to several (numerous) PDF files at once (batch operation)? Also Rick, do you know if there is a generally accepted percentage/ratio that one can use to predicate disk space required when deciding whether to save as PDF/A or PDF? That is, do you know if any comparisons have been done that suggest a PDF/A file is “on average” 25, 50, 200% larger than a “standard” PDF file? Thanks.

    • Rick Borstein says:

      There is not standardized guidance on how much larger a file will become when converted to PDF/A. Fonts add size to the file. You can conform in bulk using Actions in Acrobat Pro.

  8. Pingback: Save Quickly to PDF/A with Keyboard Shortcuts « Oregon Law Practice Management

  9. Renee Russo says:

    Hi Rick,
    I have to convert the Crystal reports in an old Oracle Client-Server application to PDF/A files. I am able to export these reports from the system to .rpt files (Cystal Report version 7 was installed in the server), and I am able to export the .rpt files through Crystal Reports XI Release 2 to PDF files; However, when I open the PDF files in Adobe Acrobat Pro and save them to PDF/A files, some work, but some throws me the error that shows in your instruction above “could not be converted according to the selected standard profile….” I run the prefligth Anaysis and Fixes. It shows me the errors, but I don’t know where to fix. Could you give me any advice? Thanks a lot.

    • Rick Borstein says:

      I’d suggest trying Acrobat XI. PDF/A conformance is a lot easier in the new version. Depending how the authoring app created the files, the only workflow may be to reprint them to the PDF print driver using the PDF/A option.

  10. Randy Vehar says:

    How can I tell if a PDF document has correctly converted to a PDF/A-1b?

    • Rick Borstein says:

      In Acrobat X and XI, when you open a file which purports to be PDF/A, the Standards panel will also appear at the left. Click on it and choose Verify Compliance.

  11. aubrey says:

    Hi Rick:
    Ii have the Acrobat 9 Pro. Received a PDF/A mode document recently. Please advise how I can convert back to a normal one so I can delete some pages and do highlight for my personal reading? Thanks!

    • Rick Borstein says:

      You’ll need to remove the PDF/A properties of the file to do that. You can do that using Preflight in Acrobat 9. This is much easier in Acrobat XI where you only have to click the button in the toolbar.

  12. Julio Matamoros says:

    How can I tell if a document is PDF -a compliant?

    • Rick Borstein says:

      Take a look at the Standards panel. If you actually want to validate the file, you will need Acrobat Pro.