The Administrative Office of the United States Courts is changing the technical standards associated with CM/ECF filings. The reason for the change is to ensure that, in the future, we will still be able to view electronically filed documents as they were originally filed.
Normally, Adobe Acrobat saves a document without including the font as part of the file (it just assumes that everyone else will have the same fonts already installed on their computers, thus keeping the file size smaller). The problem, though, occurs when someone does not have a particular font installed. In that situation, the PDF viewer program has to substitute another font which the user does have installed in place of the missing font. The result, though, is that the viewer is not seeing the document as it was meant to be viewed.
The solution to the problem is to save your PDF files with the font (or fonts) which you used to create them. That way, future viewers of the document will be able to see the document the way you intended it to be seen.
The way to do this is to save the PDF documents with the PDF/A settings. PDF/A stands for “PDF for Archiving.” It is a standard format which is meant for long-term archiving of documents. I believe that all law firms should already be saving their files this way, just to future-proof their paperless office systems. Who knows what types of computers and operating systems and software we will be using next year, much less decades from now. Wouldn’t it be nice to still be able to view your saved documents quickly and easily?
Also, when a person later opens a PDF/A file, that format will limits what a viewer can do with it. The reason is because the document is being viewed in “archive mode.” Think of that as a hands-off, final form view of the document. For lawyers, think of it as a kind of as a type of document which has been “file-marked” (it isn’t literally file marked, I just mean that the document is the type of document which can no longer be changed). A user can, of course, go back into Word or WordPerfect and create a new version with whatever changes need to be made and then save it again as a new PDF/A document; but, a PDF/A version of a document cannot be changed itself.
I do realize that most attorneys already think of PDF documents that way, so this shouldn’t be that difficult of a mental change. We usually don’t create the PDF version of a document until we are done editing, and then the document is ready to be filed or sent to someone. However, for other users, they are aware that it is possible to open a PDF document and add comments and make changes even after it was created. PDF/A stops that, though.
So, how do you create a PDF/A document with Adobe Acrobat? If, like me, you “print” to the Adobe Acrobat print driver in Windows, simply click “Printer Properties” in whatever program you are “printing” from, and in the Default Settings box, choose “PDF/A-1b:2005 (RGB).” You can go to the Control Panel, under “Devices and Printers,” right-click on the “Adobe PDF” printer, and change the printing preferences to default to “PDF/A-1b:2005 (RGB).”
For more information, here is a blog entry on Adobe’s own website which contains more background information and links to other ideas about this topic.