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If I use the Export menu in Preview it gives me an option to make various versions of my PDF including PDF/A. What PDF/A is this, 1b, 2b, 2u, other?

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I have been unable to find any documentation by Apple about this addition to Preview (or in PDFKit), since it was introduced.

However, a quick test of saving a PDF/A file from Preview and 'flight-checking' it in Acrobat reveals that it does not comply entirely with any PDF/A standard. PDF/A-2b comes closest, with some minor metadata infractions.

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It's possible that these problems are specific to the file, and that other PDFs might have compliant metadata.

As with Apple's PDF/X implementation, I would not rely on it. For example, you can check the box to Create a PDF/A document, and also to encrypt it, which is against the spec.

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(In fairness, you get an encrypted PDF of blank pages.)

Warning: Preview does not open PDF/A files as read-only, and any modification to the file will be auto-saved, even if contrary to the spec, while maintaining the flag for PDF/A.

In short: do not use Preview to either view or create PDF/A documents.

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  • Interesting, so the PDF itself seems to pass but the metadata doesn't. The warnings are well taken.
    – John
    Aug 17, 2021 at 10:19
  • @John Most of the characteristics of the PDF/A spec are fairly 'normal' -- embedded fonts, no attached files, no encryption, etc, -- so it's unsurprising that it meets most of the spec.
    – benwiggy
    Aug 17, 2021 at 10:23

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