PDF/X, PDF/A, PDF/E: What is the difference, and why are there so many formats?

PDF is an all-purpose file format that allows users to present and share documents regardless of software, hardware, or operating system. Over the years, several PDF subtypes have been created to meet the different needs of various industries. Let's look at some of the most popular formats: PDF/X, PDF/A, and PDF/E.

1. PDF/X

PDF/X is a professional standard for graphics interchange optimized for consistent and predictable printing. Unlike regular PDFs, which can include any content, like interactive elements and media files, PDF/X is limited to certain data types, making it especially suitable for sharing print-ready files.

Main characteristics of PDF/X:

PDF/X subtypes:




2. PDF/A

PDF/A is a subset of the PDF format designed to meet the needs for long-term storage of electronic documents. Unlike PDF standard, PDF/A prohibits components that can cause problems with a document's appearance over long periods of time, making it ideal for archiving.

Main characteristics of PDF/A:

PDF/A subtypes:




3. PDF/E

PDF/E is a subset of the PDF format designed specifically for engineering, architecture, and construction professionals. This standard addresses the need for sharing, viewing, and printing dynamic technical documents, including diagrams, drawings, and 3D graphics.

Main characteristics of PDF/E:

Why so many formats?

Various industries have different needs. The creation of specialized PDF subsets allows us to meet these needs without creating an entirely new standard. These profiles ensure standardization, predictability, and reliability for specific applications.

Are these formats available in FastReport .NET?

FastReport .NET has most export formats, only PDF/E is missing. These formats can be used both in the designer and the application code. To select the desired format in the designer, click "Save" and "PDF format." Then go to the "Settings" tab and select the needed format.

Format selection

At the end, we will receive the required file in the desired format.

To export to a specific format, we need to create an application, connect the FastReport package, and write the required code. Below is an example of how to save a PDF as PDF/A.

 Report report = new Report();
 // Setting up PDF export
 PDFExport pdfExport = new PDFExport();
 // For export to PDF/A format
 // You can select the desired compliance level
 report.Export(pdfExport, "OutputPath.pdf");


Although there are many PDF subtypes, each was developed with a specific purpose and to meet the needs of a specific industry. The choice is entirely yours, which format and for what purposes you need it.

Fast Reports
  • 800-985-8986 (English, US)
  • +4930568373928 (German)
  • +55 19 98147-8148 (Portuguese)
  • info@fast-report.com
  • 901 N Pitt Str #325 Alexandria VA 22314

© 1998-2024 Fast Reports Inc.