PDF Standards

All PDF Standards – A Comparison

The past articles we published on this blog were all dedicated to PDF standards introduced and established by the International Standard Organization (ISO).

This article serves as a quick and concise overview of the three PDF format sub-standards. For more information, check out the respective articles:


All ISO PDF Standards

ISO standards are present in many different areas to create one common standard for various things. That way, documents and other file formats had to follow certain rules. This helps everyone around the world to create, open, view, and use e.g. PDF documents that can likewise be opened and viewed by everyone.

This unification helps the spreading and universal support of documents. Another popular example of this is paper sizes that also follow an ISO standard.

The following table lists the three aforementioned PDF standards. It serves as a quick overview of the distinguishable features of eas standard.

Purpose Archiving Engineering docs Sharing
Sub-Standards None None • PDF/X-1a
• PDF/X-3
• PDF/X-4
• PDF/X-4p
• PDF/X-5g
• PDF/X-5pg
• PDF/X-5n
External content Prohibited, everything is self-contained Prohibited, everything is self-contained Prohibited, everything is self-contained
Contained content Fonts, images Fonts, images, animations, 3D graphics, videos, interactive media Fonts, images

Using these specific standards for PDFs ensures that they are optimized for their particular purpose.