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Adobe's PDF format now an ISO standard

Adobe has relinquished control of the Portable Document Format (PDF) to the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), which will now assume developmental control of the format as an industry standard.

The ISO said the new standard, ISO 32000-1, Document management – Portable document format – Part 1: PDF 1.7, is based on the PDF version 1.7 developed by Adobe. It supplies the essential information needed by developers who write software that reads, creates, or otherwise interprets PDF files.

Since its inception back in 1993, Adobe has maintained complete autonomy as the developer and copyright owner of the electronic document format, which allows users to exchange and view the documents easily and reliably, independent of the environments in which they are created, viewed and printed, while preserving their content and visual appearance.

"By releasing the full PDF specification for ISO standardization, we are reinforcing our commitment to openness", said Adobe chief technology officer Kevin Lynch.

The explosion of Internet use in recent years helped PDF become one of the most common formats for document exchange, spawning billions of individual PDF documents and a community of more than 2000 PDF product developers along the way.

PDF also plays a central role in Apple's Mac OS X operating system, serving as the native metafile format that replaced the once-standard PICT format of yesteryears. Mac OS X's Quartz 2D graphics composition layer is also based on a model common to Display PostScript and PDF.

As such, Apple's system-level support for PDF allows any Mac OS X application with access to a Print command to create PDF documents automatically. Apple's Preview image viewer and Safari Web browser also support the format natively.

"As an ISO standard, we can ensure that this useful and widely popular format is easily available to all interested stakeholders," said ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden. "The standard will benefit both software developers and users by encouraging the propagation and dissemination of a common technology that cuts across systems and is designed for long term survival.”

In a statement released Wednesday, the ISO added that future versions of the format will be published as subsequent parts of the ISO 32000-1 standard by the ISO subcommittee in charge of its maintenance and development.