Portable Document Format


The Portable Document Format (PDF) is a platform-independent document format developed in the 1990s with the following aims:

  • Exchange and display of electronic documents
  • Graphic display of text and images independent of the resolution
  • Optimization of documents for (web) display
  • Interactive functions

PDF is derived from PostScript, although it is not a programming language, but a file format. It describes the pages of the document using objects (Boolean, numeric, string, name, array, dictionary, stream, the null object, and indirect objects) and the associated structure information. Interactive elements such as forms, bookmarks, sound objects, and thumbnails are available for use in electronic documents. To optimize the display on output devices with small screens (PDAs, mobile phones, smart phones, etc.), markup tagging (similar to HTML tags) can be integrated into a PDF. Markup enables page content to be wrapped, although the layout consistency is limited. It also makes it easy to convert the content into other formats, e.g. suitable for screen readers for blind users (accessibility).

PDF files describe the generated layout in a form largely true to the original and independent of printers and previous settings - one of the main differences in comparison to descriptive and markup languages such as SGML and HTML with respect to high layout consistency.


PDF - Distribution and Benefits

PDF documents are available worldwide in almost all market segments and are very popular due to their numerous benefits. These include:

  • Portability: PDF is platform-independent which means that a PDF document produced using e.g. a Windows application can be processed on a UNIX server and displayed on a Mac computer.
  • Extra functions: The PDF format is based on the PostScript page descriptive language, and also provides direct access to pages and features for encryption, compression, interactive navigation and much more.
  • Industrial standard: PDF has developed into an internationally recognized ISO standard for the electronic exchange of documents. PDF is also the most widely used format for the production of first prints in digital pre-press stages.
  • Viewer/Reader: One of the main reasons for the high acceptance of the format is that complimentary display programs (viewer/reader) are available for all common platforms. This means that the content of a PDF file can be viewed using any hardware or software architecture with no graphical differences.

Typical Use Scenario

The marketing department of a company has created a product flyer and sends it as a PDF file by e-mail for correction to the responsible departments. The departments make their changes directly in the document and the revised document is finally sent to the printing service provider, with any problems such as missing fonts,  differently used DTP programs, etc. corrected. In addition, the PDF document can be directly uploaded to the Internet. Since Acrobat Reader now comes standard on a PC workstation, the document is immediately accessible.


PDF Standards

Due to the high acceptance of PDF as a document format, different PDF specifications have been developed for specific areas of document production and processing. This includes, among other things:

  • PDF/A for compact, long-term electronic archiving – time-saving and legally compliant. Since 2005, the format has become established as an ISO standard.
  • PDF/VT for the creation/display and printing of transaction documents such as account statements and bills.
  • PDF/UA for the creation of PDF files that are also accessible to users with a visual impairment or motor disability. The aim of this pending ISO standard is to define how PDF documents and the information elements they contain (including graphics, text, multimedia, form fields) need to be made available so that they can also be read and edited by people with disabilities (accessibility).


Technological Support

Compart’s MFFPOS filter is a formatting tool to support PDF and PDF/A during both input and output processes. In keeping with PDF’s market significance for the exchange and representation of electronic documents, the emphasis was placed on superior conversion accuracy.

The MFFPDF supports the following PDF versions:

  • Input
    Read the supported features in all known versions

  • Output
    1. PDF version 1.3 – 1.7
    2. PDF/A



Compart’s MFF filters (mixed format filter) are the basis of the MFF architecture for DocBridge products. Some MFF filters read files in different formats (input filters) while others are used to write files in the respective output format (output filters). In many cases, a format is supported for both input and output.

The strength of the Compart MFF architecture is its ability to quickly and effectively convert documents in various formats into others, or integrate them into a document using a specific format. For example, documents in AFP, SAPGOF or PCL can be converted to PDF and can also be merged into a single PDF document.

When converting one format into another, Compart uses the shared object format, the so-called presentation area (PA), which is able to represent the visual data and metadata of all supported formats. An MFF input filter converts an input file into the PA format in main memory and an MFF output filter then converts the PA format saved in main memory into an output file.


PDF Conversion Directions

PDF to PostScript

Find all PDF conversion directions in the Compart Matrix (PDF)

Compart Matrix

A complete overview of all supported input and output formats is provided in the Compart Matrix. Compart software solutions enables highly complex, single pass operations with flexibility and reliability for high availability, high volume environments.

Open Compart Matrix (PDF)

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