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What (ISO?) document completely specifies the PDF file format?

Jan 4, 2012 1:37 PM

Is there ONE (ISO?) document that FULLY specifies the format of a PDF file format? Where to obtain it?

I need it so I can write a program that will perform some processes on PDF files.


  • George Johnson
    11,669 posts
    Aug 11, 2002
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    Jan 4, 2012 1:44 PM   in reply to DavidW7
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    Jan 6, 2012 1:40 AM   in reply to DavidW7

    For all practical purposes there's no file size limit in the ISO PDF specification, however the bit length of internal references means there will be problems at around 10GB. There's also a limit of 2 billion pages (the page count attribute is a 32-bit int).


    Distiller won't output more than 32767 pages at a time, but I know cases of archivists working with 100,000-page text files (created by appending thousands of documents, but not in Acrobat).



    Having said that, the Acrobat Family is 32-bit code, so can only allocate 2GB of process memory. This means you can't perform tasks where an asset larger than the allocated free space has to be retained in RAM, and that includes the save operation. The Acrobat X Family will open an existing file >2GB, and Acrobat X will assemble PDF Portfolios >2GB, but can't save them.


    Given that creating >2GB files is a very rare scenario, there are no announced plans to implement x64 flavors of Acrobat or Distiller.


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    Jan 6, 2012 8:02 AM   in reply to DavidW7

    The pdftk library can work with files up to 3.5GB on x86 platforms - we use it to create files for product testing, by appending several embedded videos or appending a file thousands of times with batch scripting. They open fine in Acrobat and Adobe Reader (the videos play, you can search the text, etc), but can't be subsequently saved from within those applications.

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