It is well-known that PDF documents can contain features that are preservation risks (e.g. see here and here). Migration of existing PDFs to PDF/A is sometimes advocated as a strategy for mitigating these risks. However, the benefits of this approach are often questionable, and the migration process can also be quite risky in itself. As I often get questions on this subject, I thought it might be worthwhile to do a short write-up on this.
One of my first blogs here covered an evaluation of a number of format identification tools. One of the more surprising results of that work was that out of the five tools that were tested, no less than four of them (FITS, DROID, Fido and JHOVE2) failed to even run when executed with their associated launcher script. In many cases the Windows launcher scripts (batch files) only worked when executed from the installation folder. Apart from making things unnecessarily difficult for the user, this also completely flies in the face of all existing conventions on command-line interface design. Around the time of this work (summer 2011) I had been in contact with the developers of all the evaluated tools, and until last week I thought those issues were a thing of the past. Well, was I wrong!
This blog follows up on three earlier posts about detecting preservation risks in PDF files. In part 1 I explored to what extent the Preflight component of the Apache PDFBox library can be used to detect specific preservation risks in PDF documents. This was followed up by some work during the SPRUCE Hackathon in Leeds, which is covered by this blog post by Peter Cliff. Then last summer I did a series of additional tests using files from the Adobe Acrobat Engineering website. The main outcome of this more recent work was that, although showing great promise, Preflight was struggling with many more complex PDFs. Fast-forward another six months and, thanks to the excellent response of the Preflight developers to our bug reports, the most serious of these problems are now largely solved1. So, time to move on to the next step!
My previous blog Assessing file format risks: searching for Bigfoot? resulted in some interesting feedback from a number of people. There was a particularly elaborate response from Ross Spencer, and I originally wanted to reply to that directly using the comment fields.
Last week someone pointed my attention to a recent iPres paper by Roman Graf and Sergiu Gordea titled "A Risk Analysis of File Formats for Preservation Planning". The authors propose a methodology for assessing preservation risks for file formats using information in publicly available information sources. In short, their approach involves two stages: