The PDF file format was created by Adobe Systems in the early 1990s for document exchange. PDF represents documents in a way that is independent of hardware, software and operating systems. While initially PDF was a proprietary format, it was officially released as an open standard in July of 2008 and was published by the International Organization for Standardization as ISO 32000-1:2008.
Adobe recognized PDF’s intrinsic value for universal content exchange and chose to turn the specification over to AIIM, the enterprise content management industry association. AIIM, on behalf of ANSI (American National Standards Institute), in essence, serves as the custodian or steward for the PDF standard. Under the AIIM standards program, PDF continues to evolve to meet the diversified needs of the information management industry. There are currently five committees working to further develop the PDF standard. Subsets of PDF include:
PDF/Archive, or PDF/A, is the electronic document file format for long-term preservation. PDF/A became an ISO standard (ISO 19005-1) in September 2005. It was developed to provide a file format with a mechanism for representing electronic documents in a manner that preserves their visual content over time. Documents stored in PDF/A will always be able to be viewed by future versions of the Acrobat Reader. A revision to ISO 19005-1 is currently being worked on by the ISO working group that will add some functionality to the archival electronic document file.
PDF/Engineering, or PDF/E (ISO 24517-1), is the standard file format for the exchange of engineering documents. This standard enables organizations to streamline engineering workflows that incorporate diverse sets of complex engineering documents, resulting in improved productivity and the ability to more quickly deliver better products to market. In addition to improving workflows in engineering organizations, this standard specifies the proper use of PDF for on-screen display and printing of engineering documents.
PDF/Universal Access, PDF/UA (ISO/CD 14289), is currently being developed to enable individuals with disabilities to be able to render PDF documents. The committee tasked with this standard is working on a PDF standard to produce electronic documents that are maximally accessible to those who use assistive technologies to read documents.
PDF Healthcare is the latest standard spawned from PDF. This project is unique in that it is not initially a file format standard but rather a best-practices guide that will describe the attributes of the Portable Document Format (PDF) that facilitate the capture, exchange, preservation and protection of healthcare information. These best practices are especially valuable in aiding the compliance of regulatory guidelines such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensures patient information privacy and protection.
PDF Healthcare best practices enables healthcare providers and consumers to develop a secure, electronic container that can store and transmit relevant healthcare information including (but not limited to) personal documents, clinical notes, lab reports, electronic forms, scanned images, photographs, digital X-rays, and EKGs, that are critical for maintaining and improving patient care.
Source: AIIM Infomagazine March/April 2010