It has been almost 9 years since Adobe officially released PDF as an open standard and passed on the control over the PDF specification to ISO Committee of volunteer industry experts. This is probably why this has taken so long since the last update of the PDF specification – PDF 1.7 (2008). A new version was long overdue and it is finally coming out next year. ISO Committee has announced that the PDF 2.0 is feature complete and will be published as ISO 32000-2 in 2017.

PDF 2.0, additionally to new features, also incorporates capabilities and features that have already been introduced with earlier Acrobat versions and PDF sub-standards like PDF/A-3, PDF/X etc. As it has been nine whole years since the last versions, some features from the previous PDF versions have been declared deprecated, implying that these features should not be used when creating new PDF 2.0 documents. However, they may still be supported in viewers for or processing existing documents or even PDF 2.0 document that still contain deprecated features.

What features are deprecated?

XFA forms are no longer part of PDF 2.0. Actually, XFA hasn’t really been a part of the PDF file format, but rather a separate format of its own which has been attached to PDF. The vast majority of available PDF software doesn’t support XFA forms anyway.

Weak encryption schemes and algorithms like RC4 and AES-128 are deprecated.

Movie and sound annotations are deprecated and replaced with the more powerful RichMedia annotation type introduced with Acrobat 9.

What are the new capabilities?

 The list of changes features more than 50 items. These areas have received the most notable improvements:

  • Encryption
  • Accessibility
  • Annotations
  • Tagging
  • Print production

Improvements to encryption include “unencrypted wrapper” for encrypted data feature, Unicode passwords, AES-256 encryption and Improvements to digital signatures, using a European standard called PAdES

Improvements in tagging go hand in hand with improvements in accessibility. Not only it helps to define document structure more explicitly, but also significantly improves user experience for disabled people. New tagging features facilitate text-to-speech software performance that has been criticized for years.   

Improvements in Annotations have made combining video, audio and 3D possible, which previously was not an option.

Further support and improvements in geospatial data for 2D and 3D as well as measurement properties for 3D and 2D.

What does it all meant moving forward?

New specification only reinforces PDF’s dominance in the market of online document formats because of new features, subset standards and clearer documentation. PDF truly becomes a platform rather than a solution. Take a look at this picture from Duff Johnson’s closing session from PDF Days Europe 2016 event:

pdf marketplace pdf 2.0

So many business processes rely on PDF these days so there is no way this format will go away any time soon.


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