Difference Between PDF / A and PDF

The rolling out of PDF by Adobe has been proven one of the most important documents formats among the many. Not only it’s open to anyone, but it also accounts for several various items inside to enhance the experience. However, there are things in which PDF / A differs from PDF.

PDF / A vs PDF

The main difference between PDF / A and PDF is that the first one is meant for archiving documents which can be retrieved when the need comes. It’s a special type of PDF that allows this kind of format. In contrast to that, a normal PDF doesn’t allow archiving documents.

PDF a vs PDF

PDF / A is a subset of PDF that is used to archive important documents and files. This special type of document ensures that the content which resides in this mode remains the same even if it’s retrieved after a long time by setting several restrictions and rules on the document.

PDF stands for portable document format, which is a mode to save a file or pages into this format. One of the important use of PDF is that it’s used in digital books, which allow readers to go through the content from anywhere around the world. It’s the world’s most accessed and used format, which ensures no loss of content irrespective of the system using the PDF.

Comparison Table Between PDF / A and PDF

Parameters Of ComparisonPDF / APDF
DefinitionPDF / A is a special type of document which is a subset of PDF.PDF supports this special format and is the mother of PDF / A.
ArchivingThe documents in this format can be archived.The normal format doesn’t allow archiving documents.
Graphical contentIt doesn’t allow audio, video, and executable content.It does allow graphical content like audio, video, and executable content.
EmbeddingIt needs that fonts and graphics to be embedded into the file.This doesn’t need to do these.
EncryptionThis doesn’t allow encryption of files and documents.PDF allows encryption.

What is PDF / A?

When you need to perform special tasks like embedding, archiving, this method is the best since it’s the subset of PDF and a special type of PDF. PDF /A is a kind which allows the user to save the data and archive the document for long term purpose. In case the data is retrieved after a long time, this mode ensures zero loss of content and also maintains the format as it was saved.

Several other functions are also allowed in PDF /A, like picture insertion, given that they are embedded accompanied with providing the fonts to be used in rendering the documents. In the general case, this method doesn’t allow the file to refer to any other external source as there is no knowing whether the recourse would exist or not.

The attributes enhance these kinds of files as an advantage of reproducibility. When these kinds of files are copied, they will contain the same elements as the original have. It doesn’t allow subsequent changes or modifications. So this robust ensures the originality of the content.

If we talk about the encryption mode, PDF/A doesn’t allow encrypting of the data. Encryption is one of the main parts a company wants to secure their confidential files and various documents. Only the permitted person or the employees can access encrypted files.

What is PDF?

In the year 1991, the co-founder of Adobe launched the digital paper revolution. This change ensured that the copies you have in your hand could be transferred digitally to anyone around the world. The name he gave to the project was Camelot. Later in 1992, it was renamed PDF.

It’s the most used format in the world. The level of trust companies have in the format is way bold and strong. PDF encompasses various attributes to ease the person. Standardized as ISO 32000, it’s a file format that includes text formatting and image insertion.

PDF can have a variety of content. It can have flat text graphics, interactive elements like annotations, and form fields, layers, media content, 2-D, 3-D objects using U3D and PRC, and other data formats. Also, PDF allows user to encrypt, do signatures digitally, attaching files, and metadata to enable workflow.

It’s saved as extensions such as “.PDF”. A PDF is a combination of text, vector graphics, and Bitmap graphics. Also, it allows many other types of things in the files. It is easy to operate and also an open-source thing. Right now, people who are involved in document working knows the need and requirement of this type of format.

Main Differences Between PDF / A and PDF

  1. PDF /A is a special kind of format system by PDF that allows users to archive the files and documents while a normal PDF does not allow archiving.
  2. PDF /A needs embedding of graphical contents like audio, video, references externally, while a normal PDF does not need so.
  3. PDF /A cannot be encrypted, which makes it an insecure document format, while normal PDFs can be encrypted.
  4. PDF /A is a subset of PDF, while PDF is not a subset of anyone.
  5. The data in PDF /A remains the same if we retrieve the file after a long period, while a normal PDF does not assure you this part.


PDF has become the most accessed type of format that allows several companies, individuals to work on the document. It has become a need to work on PDF since it ensures mobility online, can be delivered to anyone anywhere in the world. Comprising of various other attributes makes it more demanding among the people.

This invention by Adobe is a needful and important one. Also, the things residing in the document is safe and secure since PDF allows encryption of files and documents. Updates keep on releasing to enhance the user experience every time the user is accessing or working on portable document format.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0360128585900024
  2. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783112415467/html
AskAnyDifference HomeClick here
Search for "Ask Any Difference" on Google. Rate this post!
[Total: 0]