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Basic Introduction to PDF/E

The PDF/E (PDF/Engineering) format is a PDF subset whose purpose is to handle engineering and design documents. It is certified by the International Organization for Standardization as Standard ISO 24517-1:2008. The PDF/E format has widespread use in the creation and exchange of various engineering and technical documents. It is being developed and supported by AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management).

The PDF/E format was first announced on March 1, 2004. In 2005 its information was submitted to the International Organization for Standardization. Voting with respect to the format occurred in 2006. And in mid-2007 it was approved as a standard. In 2008 the standard was updated.

Why PDF/E?
PDF/E evolved from the need for an open, neutral exchange format for engineering and technical documentation. While multiple proprietary formats exist, they each have their own viewers, making it difficult to repurpose 3D and engineering data for downstream uses. The cost of distributing and storing paper contributes to the high cost of managing distribution and change throughout the project for product development teams as well as for extended supply chains.

Like PDF, PDF/E is a digital container which supports a wide variety of content and can be viewed and marked up using free and widely available Adobe ReaderĀ® software. PDF/E can help support the secure distribution of sensitive information and reduce the complexity and costs associated with distributing and storing paper. While PDF/E is an open standard developed and maintained by an ISO working group, it also leverages U3D, another open standard, for the representation of 3D content.

The PDF/E is based on PDF V1.6. However, it has been stripped of certain capabilities that are not used when creating engineering documents. Features specific to PDF/E include mandatory font embedding in the file being created, hardware-independent colors, and XMP for metadata. In addition, documents in this format may use JavaScript (associated with 3D), encryption, digital signatures, transparency, layers, etc. PDF/E documents may not contain links to external objects, dynamic (XFA-based) forms, or JavaScript that is not associated with 3D.