Scanning in PDF vs PDF/A format | AccountingWEB

Scanning in PDF vs PDF/A format


We have recently started using Document Management Software for our paperless office. It appears that you can scan documents using normal PDF or PDF/A-1b version. The latter seems to be the archival quality version and allows you to store documents for longer periods. We also noted that the software allows you to convert from one version to another if you scan the documents. However, it appears that PDF/A-1b takes up more disc space compared to normal PDF. We wanted to see what other users have experienced in this regard based on their experiences of going Paperless.

  • What benefits have you found using the archive version?
  • Is it more time consuming to open/close/edit the PDF document?
  • What about hyperlinks and other attachments on the file?
  • Is it advisable to convert old files to archival version and more recent ones in normal version?

Your experiences and feedback would be much appreciated, as we are quite new in this area.

Many thanks.

cverrier's picture

Probably not worth the candle....    3 thanks

cverrier | | Permalink

Users won't see any benefit to using the PDF/A standard - their documents will look exactly the same.

PDF/A files are a bit bigger, because they contain embedded fonts (to make sure the document looks correct even when your PC doesn't have the right fonts installed) but it shouldn't make a dramatic difference to the way the files open and close.   You will see your storage-space requirements go up, so there will be a higher longer-term cost compared to using standard PDF.

The PDF/A standard is less flexible than 'normal' PDF, as PDF/A is designed to provide higher quality long term storage for information. Anything that might present a risk to the quality or accessibility of the document is therefore not allowed.  This includes an assortment of restrictions:

  • Audio and video content are not allowed.
  • JavaScript and executable file launches are not allowed.
  • All fonts must be embedded and also must be legally embeddable for unlimited, universal rendering.
  • Encryption is not allowed.
  • External content references are forbidden (hyperlinks)
  • LZW and JPEG2000 image compressions are forbidden
  • Transparent objects and layers are forbidden
  • Embedded files are forbidden in PDF/A-1, but PDF/A-2 offers the possibility to embed PDF/A files, allowing archiving of sets of documents in a single file.

(PDF/A-2 is a new version of the PDF/A standard - It has some enhancements, but is not widely used or supported yet). For a typical accountancy practice, most of your records are going to be retained for less than a decade, so I'm not sure that PDF/A will provide much value.  By all means use it if it's no hassle, but I certainly wouldn't spend any extra time or money to do it.

jndavs's picture

PDF    1 thanks

jndavs | | Permalink

It is my understanding that PDF/A is the archive version of a normal PDF.

The intention is that documents can be reproduced exactly the same way in years to come and so the PDF must be completely self contained, including all text, graphics, font, colour information etc. Hence the larger file sizes. It obviously can not link to other external documents.

Andy Reeves's picture


Andy Reeves | | Permalink

We have used Invu for almost three years and the default scan file type is TIF. You can scan to PDF easily as well, which is handy if you need to send something to clients as many say they can't read TIFs.

I understood that PDFs were more than ten times larger than TIFs so may cause storage capacity issues.

By the way, does anyone know if there is a way of easily converting TIFs to PDFs?


hsr1012 | | Permalink

We don't use any management software because of how are files are stored anyway but, we have been a less paper office for well over 5 years now and have always used a standard pdf format but changed the scanned image dpi depending on what the document was being used for.  the higher the dpi the larger the file.

Unless we have to send correspondence in the post we will also print to pdf and email, a much cheaper and greener alternative.

We find that pdf's are the best format as we can easily just send them to the client/bank, etc via email as virtually everyone has some form of PDF reader.


@Andy Reeves - there are some online conversion tools that are free if you google convert tiff to pdf

cverrier's picture


cverrier | | Permalink

There's no particular reason why a PDF file should be larger than a TIF - and in fact often it may be quite a lot smaller.   It's down to the way the file is created, and the nature of the content.

There are lots of products that can convert TIF to PDF.  A TIF file is an image, so the process of converting a TIF to a PDF is really only going to embed the image into an otherwise empty PDF 'wrapper' so that it can be opened by Adobe Reader.

A really simple way to convert a TIF to PDF is to use one of the many 'PDF Printer' utilities (CutePDF, for example, or JawsPDF).   You can then just open the TIF file and 'print' it to the PDF utility, which will then spit out a PDF for you.

If you want something a bit nicer, then you should consider a product that can Optically Character Read (OCR) the TIF file and extract any text in the image to data.  The PDF file would then be searchable, and you'd be able to copy and paste text out of the PDF file.

Abbyy FineReader would be a good example of a comprehensive product that could do this (and a lot more) for £99.

The full copy of Adobe Acrobat can do this conversion and OCR as well.

virtual cabinet

Peter Waterman | | Permalink

you need VC this converts tiffs to pdf - EDM solution generally save a s tiff to keep the file size to a minimum and any decent edm software tool can then convert from tiff to pdf.

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