• What is PDF/A?
    • PDF/A is an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard document format. It is a subset of the PDF standard which excludes those PDF features that give rise to concerns about security and the ability to archive documents.
  • Why does the judiciary need to move to PDF/A for its CM/ECF documents?
    • To reduce security risks and to improve the ability to archive those documents. Since its inception in 1995, CM/ECF has required that documents be filed in PDF format. Over the years, PDF has had many features added to it, and some of those features have created security risks. Formal security audits have pointed out the vulnerability. PDF/A eliminates those security risks and also enhances the ability to archive with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
  • What does an attorney or court user need to do to create PDF/A documents?
    • More than ninety commercial products, including word processors, can create PDF/A documents. In most cases, users simply need to update the settings in those products to make PDF/A the default format. A filer who now uses software that does not support PDF/A will need to acquire a product that does; a free word processor can be downloaded from OpenOffice.org. Please see the PDF/A Creation tab for a more detailed discussion of document creation.
  • How are hyperlinks in documents affected by the PDF/A requirement?
    • Many PDF writers create PDF/A documents with active (“clickable”) links. Other PDF writers produce PDF/A documents with active links only if the links are unmasked (i.e., the link is a full URL and not a shorthand literal that represents the full URL). Furthermore, different programs that convert PDF documents to PDF/A handle hyperlinks differently. See Hyperlinks in PDF/A Documents.
  • Are there special considerations for using active links in PDF/A documents?
    • If Version 9 of Adobe Reader or Acrobat is being used to display a PDF/A document, links will not work if the default “PDF/A View Mode” is in effect. A user who wants to use the hyperlinks must disable “PDF/A View Mode”, as described in Hyperlinks in PDF/A Documents. Beginning with Version 10.1 of the Adobe products, disabling PDF/A View Mode is unnecessary; hyperlinks will remain active in PDF/A View Mode.
  • How can a user create a PDF/A from a scanned document?
    • Newer scanners (manufactured since 2005 or so) allow users to directly create a PDF/A. Users with older scanners can use a conversion tool such as Acrobat 9 to convert scanned documents to PDF/A. See Creating PDF/A from a scanned document.
  • Which PDF/A format should filers use: 1a or 1b?
    • Both are acceptable for CM/ECF. PDF/A-1a requires structure in a document and is best to use for electronic documents. PDF/A-1b does not require structure in a document and is best to use for scanned documents or documents where the structure is unknown. For more information on the structure of the document, please see this site: http://www.adobe.com/enterprise/standards/pdfa . (Click on the Key Specifications tab and read the fifth bullet point.)
  • How is the use of annotations affected by the PDF/A requirement?
    • PDF/A documents may be annotated using the CM/ECF “sticky notes” feature and still be compliant. Generally, other annotation tools would also maintain PDF/A compliance.
  • How does the PDF/A requirement affect data-enabled (“fillable”) forms, such as those downloaded from the uscourts.gov web site?
    • Just as with PDF, fillable forms such as a bankruptcy petition or a credit counseling certificate must be in PDF/A format before they are filed in CM/ECF. A PDF/A can be created by “printing” from the browser - see Creating PDF/A documents with Acrobat.
  • How will the PDF/A requirement affect third-party software vendors (e.g., bankruptcy petition and trustee software)?
    • Third-party software vendors will provide PDF/A documents. Products will be tested prior to any date that the judiciary recommends for requiring PDF/A.
  • How will video and audio files be handled?
    • Video and audio files are not PDF/A compliant. However, CM/ECF accepts the upload of digital audio files. The security risk from these files is low because they are loaded by court staff.
  • How does the PDF/A requirement affect Mac users?
    • Microsoft Word 2008 for Mac cannot create PDF/A documents, but can create PDF documents which can be converted to PDF/A. Alternately, a Mac user can install and use OpenOffice, which is available for free; see OpenOffice settings for PDF/A.