by lrosenth


January 28, 2008

The title of this article is the official name of the ISO standard based upon PDF 1.7 which, for all purposes, now exists. The International working group meeting in Orlando, held last week (January 21-23, 2008), was able to successfully resolve all 205 comments to the 32000 Draft International Standard (DIS) document. Even the French, with their expert calling into the meeting on a conference call, have agreed to the edited comment resolutions and, as I reported earlier, changed their vote to positive. That makes it unanimous.

The remaining tasks are primarily mine and the editing staff of ISO in Switzerland.  I have two tasks to perform: 1) make a final version of the document that records the resolution to each of the comments and 2) make the final edits to the DIS that the comment resolutions dictate. I hope to finish this in a week or two and then it is up to the Swiss editors to polish it off and get it published on the ISO website as an official document. (They have a reputation for taking months to do this. Maybe we can get them into a more excited mood for this effort.)

This whole process was started less than one year ago when Adobe announced that, with the cooperation of AIIM and ANSI, we would submit PDF 1.7 to become a public ISO standard. Doing such a complicated standard in one year is extraordinary, but it worked so well for two reasons: 1) PDF was a well accepted and well documented existing de facto standard and 2) we developed some basic principles to guide the work and help with decision making.

As we began to make decisions, answer questions and move forward, it became clear to me that the standards process that Adobe had been following and the standards process that AIIM/ANSI/ISO follow are quite different. For the standards organizations the carefully written standards document is supreme. It defines the standard. While Adobe’s PDF 1.7 Reference document is intended to do that same thing it isn’t quite so clear. For example, if the billions of files in existence today all contain a construct that has A=1 and the Adobe document says they should have A=2 the document must be changed. That is, the existing files triumph the documentation. It would be of no value to have a specification that does not cover the existing files. So, one focus I put forth at each opportunity, was that the primary objective of the new ISO PDF 1.7 standard was to document the existing files.

In fact, PDF has been a de facto standard based upon three things: the billions of existing files, the thousand of software offerings that create and process those files, and the Adobe PDF 1.7 Reference. And we decided that the order of preference to resolve any differences was in that order, files, software and then documentation. That is definitely not the standards approach where the document is supreme. So as we examined the Adobe PDF 1.7 Reference and turned it into the ISO 32000 draft we adopted what we called this "three legged stool" approach base upon prioritizing the three contributors to the existing standard. If we could capture the most correct interpretation in each area according to those criteria we could produce an ISO document that was (more) supreme and could be acceptable as the definitive word for what a PDF file contains. Of course, the Adode PDF 1.7 Reference proved to be fine for 99.9% of the definition.

Most people, after thinking about this three legged stool metaphor came to agree that documenting the existing files should take priority.

The reason I mention this is I have repeatedly found that most work needs some guiding principles to follow. When making decisions between alternatives, especially when each is very reasonable, established project principles can usually make the decision obvious. If you do not establish such principle early, and make them well known, you find yourself reinventing them and discussing them with each decision. If you do it once at first and get agreement, then they can be applied when needed.

This proved true when the ISO 32000 draft was created and it proved true during last week’s review of the ballot comments.

So except for the editing work facing me in the next week or so, I am very relaxed because this long (almost) year is about over. It has been quite an experience for me and I sure hope it has been the right action for both the industry and Adobe to have taken. As I said in an earlier blog, the big thing now is to get enough interested people involved in the ISO 32000 working group to allow the public to be as good a shepard of PDF as Adobe has been in the past. Please get involved by contacting AIIM in the US or your national standards organization affiliated with ISO.

This is my personal blog and my view of things. But I must emphasize that this has been a team effort within Adobe and here are the names of the key players that I worked closely with: Leonard Rosenthol, Ed Taft, Nora Calvillo, Dave McAllister, Isak
Tenenboym, Mike Ossesia, Kathy Stone, Sandra Lee-Doersam and Cheryl Shimamoto. Any time you make a list like this you run the risk of leaving someone off the list who should be there––my early apology. Betsy Fanning from AIIM has been a great boss as the secretariat for TC 171 and this effort. There are many more people who made contributions but these are the ones I worked most closely with on the technical aspects of moving PDF 1.7 to ISO.

Contact me at:


  • By Dwight Kelly - 10:41 AM on January 28, 2008  

    Congratulations on getting approval of PDF 1.7 ISO standard. I would still like to see more documentation on the compression and font formats as actually implemented in Adobe products. We have struggled mightly trying to write JPEG2000 and JBIG2 images that Acrobat can read. They are completely legal files; however, Acrobat doesn’t implement the particular type, profile or feature that we were utilizing. In the PostScript days, Adobe was really good about releasing implementation notes. Please do so with Acrobat!

  • By Markus Kuhn - 1:53 PM on January 28, 2008  

    Any idea what the ISO 32000 document will cost to purchase once ISO’s Central Secretariat in Geneva has finished moving commas around and publishes it?[I think it is around $50. BUT, I understand that Adobe has negotiated to allow us to post a faux version (no ISO logo) on our website which will be free. — Jim King]Are they producing a French version as well, as they used to do? [I have heard nothing of this so I’m guessing -no. — Jim King]Will the freely downloadable Adobe PDF 1.7 Reference document be updated now, to incorporate any clarifications or changes that were agreed during the ISO 32000 drafting process? [I do not think so. Since we will have a superior document I see no reason to invest any more in the PDF 1.7 Adobe document. But Adobe will have a new document about Acrobat’s use of ISO 32000; implementation notes, stuff like that. — Jim King]Will the two documents be fully equivalent in the end? [Fully equivalent? Well in objective for sure, but the ISO document is more clear and more accurate as to what the real PDF 1.7 is. The documents are certainly different. Go with the ISO 32000 document. –Jim King]

  • By Jan-Peter Homann - 6:32 AM on February 1, 2008  

    Does ISO 32000 describes a model for spotcolor opacity and spotcolor gradation compatible to the spotcolor opacity and spotcolor colorsettings in Adobe Photoshop ?[ISO 32000 does have opacity and gradations in general which can be applied also to spot colors. I assume compatibility with Photoshop means that they treat the opacity with the same parameters, etc. I would think so but am not sure. — Jim King]

  • By Ian Schwartz - 11:27 AM on February 14, 2008  

    Is there a relationship between PDF/A and PDF 1.7?[Yes, there is a relationship. PDF/A is a subset of PDF 1.4. PDF 1.4 is a subset of PDF 1.7. Therefore PDF/A is a subset of PDF 1.7. More practically PDF/A has been designed for archiving whereas PDF 1.7 (or now ISO 320000 defines the full unrestricted PDF. — Jim King]

  • By Michail Vidiassov - 10:24 PM on February 23, 2008  

    What about 3D in ISO PDF spec?Does it include or reference U3D and PRC format specifications?[The ISO 32000 document matches the PDF 1.7 document very closely as to what it references and what it includes directly. Both reference the 3D models, U3D and PRC, but do not include the detailed specification within the ISO 32000 or PDF 1.7 document.This does not mean that they are not part of the PDF standard. It is fine for a standard to reference other standards. The PDF 1.7 document and the ISO 32000 document both reference JPEG for example; also ICC profiles, OpenType fonts, various character encoding standards and quite a long list of other standards. — Jim King]

  • By iOnlinePhilippines - 9:17 AM on March 16, 2008  

    Got nothing to say about your Portable document format, You really got an awesome informative blog, would you mind if i ask you for a link exchange? Regards…[Done. Thanks, Jim King[

  • By Adam Woeger - 11:22 PM on April 22, 2008  

    Why does the project status at ISO show 40.98 today (Project Deleted) where it has been sitting at 40.99 for about 2 months now. Seems like a step in the wrong direction or am I missing something? Regards. [I cannot speak for ISO but I can tell you that the status of ISO 32000 is that it has been submitted to the editors in Switzerland who will be publishing it onto the ISO website any day now. — Jim King]

  • By nepal - 1:39 AM on June 10, 2008  

    So what’s the status of the ISO project? Is the standard accepted and published? The ISO site still shows ISO 32000 as deleted.[The document was approved in January 2008 and the final edits by the committee were applied in mid February 2008 and sent to ISO. It takes the ISO headquarters organization quite a while to insert the proper headings, footers, check for spelling errors, etc. This has been known to take over 6 months in some cases. Frustrating for me, though.Look for it on the ISO website in the next month or so.– Jim King]

  • By David S. - 9:27 AM on July 2, 2008  

    Looks like the final ISO 32000 document has been published as of 7/1/08. Congratulations.How will this impact my company, who uses Acrobat to publish millions of PDFs a year for our customers? Are there changes to logos? Can we now say “PDF” instead of “Adobe PDF”? Does this mean there will be fewer compatibility issues with our printers and PDF tools when a new version of Acrobat is released…which normally signifies a PDF version update? Or is Adobe still going to develop its own version of PDF?I’m hoping Adobe can release some sort of document addressing these kinds of questions.[Yes, indeed, it is great to see the new ISO 32000-1 PDF specification now available from ISO. Not too much has changed. You never have been required to say Adobe PDF. PDF is fine. Adobe uses Adobe PDF in relation to our products that make PDFs but there is no requirement for others to use it. Now there is even less reason.The logos we use for our Acrobat products are still ours and still restricted to use in connection with our products. I will have to check to see if we consider the propeller logo to apply to PDF or to Acrobat. If the answer is PDF then I guess everyone will be free to use it. They do now anyway.As to compatibility issues I am not sure having ISO owning the specification will change things that much. The Adobe specification was always available for all to read and if they implemented incompatible products it wasn’t for lack of a specification.Adobe plans to extend the ISO PDF when really needed but we will submit those extensions for ISO standardization. We will not be developing our own version of PDF but we will make extension to ISO PDF.I am not sure what documentation you would like to see from Adobe. We have or shortly will be posting the Adobe extensions to PDF 1.7 (ISO 32000) that have been made to support Acrobat 9. We have already been discussing these new features for possible inclusion in the next version of ISO 32000 with the ISO committee. – Jim King]

  • By Adam Woeger - 1:20 PM on July 2, 2008  

    The ISO 32000-1:2008 PDF standard was just approved on July 1, 2008 as reported by the ISO’s press release on and various news organizations. Great job and congratulations on PDF becoming a published ISO standard![Thanks. In practice it probably makes little difference but, in fact, ISO 32000-1 was approved at the end of January 2008. It was then edited into final form and submitted to the standards organization about a month later. Between now and then the time was taken by the ISO folks to proof read the material and get it into the proper form for posting on their website. – Jim King]

  • By David S. - 10:34 AM on July 3, 2008  

    Thanks, Jim. I just wondered if others who use PDF on a daily basis are asking the same things I did when reading all the news about ISO and PDF.

  • By Mike - 7:11 PM on July 13, 2008  

    could it use e-PDF To Word Converter to convert pdf to word?[I am not sure whether this is a plug for someone’s software, or a genuine query. I will treat it as a genuine query.There are thousands of PDF related software applications available. Some are excellent and others are rather limited or of not such good quality. I suggest that you use the same shopping techniques for these products as you would for any other product. Do a lot of searching and browsing on the Web. Since I get nearly all my PDF software from Adobe I am not familiar with the details of other products.I would also look for what other customers say about a product. — Jim King]

  • By Vigi Gurushanta - 7:04 PM on July 14, 2008  

    How does one who is currently using PDF/A (ISO 19005) move over to ISO 32000. What specific advantages the new standards offer to the user community in relation to ISO 19005?[There is no need to move to ISO 32000-1. PDF/A is based upon PDF 1.4 whereas ISO 32000-1 is PDF 1.7. This means that until the PDF/A committee finishes there work on PDF/A-2 you should continue to use PDF/A (current). There will be some advantages to PDF/A-2 when the work is completed but if you are happily and successfully using PDF/A just continue to do so. — Jim King]

  • By hugh - 12:50 PM on July 22, 2008  

    this blog had so much potential and you let it die. sad.[I take that as a great compliment. The blog is not dead it is just in a coma. I will see if we cannot awaken it giving your positive encouragement. Thanks. -Jim King]