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What is PDF/A? Why It’s Important and How To Use It


With change happening so quickly, doing what you can to preserve the integrity of your important documents will save you a tremendous headache in the future.

Technology is always evolving—what may seem cutting edge now could very well be obsolete in just a few years. With change happening so quickly, doing what you can to preserve the integrity of your important documents will save you a tremendous headache in the future. That’s where PDF/A really saves the day!

What is PDF/A?

So what exactly is PDF/A? PDF/A is a variation of the PDF format that ensures a document can be reproduced exactly the same way, regardless of what software is used. Basically, all of the information necessary for displaying the document and its elements in the same manner is embedded in the file—leaving your documents safe, accessible, and secure for the long term.

We introduced the PDF/A create tool with the launch of Nitro Pro 10 and it remains accessible in our latest Nitro PDF Pro update. This tool, (located under the Convert tab) will allow you to save documents in a PDF/A compliant format quickly and easily.

What are different types of PDF/A?

The tool gives the user three options for saving to PDF/A:

  1. PDF/A-1b: This designation guarantees that a PDF can be displayed and read on a computer monitor, but the legibility of the text is not guaranteed.
  2. PDF/A-2b: Save as this type of PDF/A file if you want to create an archival version of your document and its elements that will always render exactly the same as when the document was saved.
  3. PDF/A-2u: The “u” stands for Unicode and allows organizations to guarantee that document text can be reliably searched and copied.

Each option provides varying levels of conformance, which facilitates the preservation of various items in your digital file and supports such things as effects and layers.

How to turn a PDF to a PDF/A in Nitro

Ok, so now that you know where the tool is and what it does, how do you use it and how does Nitro recognize these files?

1. Identify the file or files you wish to turn into a PDF/A compliant document and open it in Nitro Pro.


2. Select the “Convert” tab, click “To PDF/A” in the toolbar, and then choose which level of compliance you would like to apply.

For example: Our sample document contains images, so we’ve chosen to save it as a “PDF/A-2b” file. This option will ensure long-term visual preservation, which is crucial for signed documents.


3. After selecting the “PDF/A-2b” option, it’s time to choose where to save the file.


4. Once saved, the conversion will process and you will receive a message confirming your file is now in the PDF/A format.


5. Select OK, and a message will appear on the information bar alerting you that the file claims compliance PDF/A standards.


And just like that, you’re done! Preserving your digital documents has never been easier—so do yourself a favor and chuck that file cabinet once and for all.

Need to save your documents in PDF/A format? Download a free trial of Nitro PDF Pro and get free access to our PDF/A conversion tool for two weeks!

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