People with differing definitions of what makes an open standard truly "open" will still be able to argue about PDF until theyre blue in the face, but moves made Jan. 29 by Adobe Systems and the Association for Information and Image Management will make PDF more closely resemble an open standard.
With Adobes blessing, the trade group plans to submit the entire PDF 1.7 file spec—the current version released with Acrobat 8—to the ISO (which, standards buffs will tell you doesnt stand for the obvious "International Standards Organization" but instead just refers to the Greek word for "equal"). The international standards cabal could approve PDF as a standard after a likely 15 to 30 months worth of reviewing and refining.
Pieces of PDF Already ISO Standards
Several trade-specific subsets of the PDF spec are either ISO approved or in the approval process, including PDF/X for printers, PDF/E for engineers, PDF/A for archivists and PDF/UA for making documents compliant with Section 508 regulations. The ISO review and approval process doesnt take a set amount of time, but typically takes somewhere between 15 and 30 months, says Adobes Sarah Rosenbaum, director of Acrobat product management.
Technically, Adobe isnt submitting PDF directly to ISO, but rather through an AIIM working group, on which Adobe has a seat. AIIM serves as the administrator for the PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA standards and also for PDF/H, an emerging standard for health care. Adobe and AIIM first started working together on standards for ISO submission back in 1995.
"As we have seen this evolve over time, whats happening is that there are these specific standards being developed for specific applications based on PDF," Rosenbaum says. "There is a constituency of customers and governments out there who need a broader standard of PDF to be able to conduct broader business. Broader than just archiving, or just advertising distribution. Its just a logical next step."