Creating a PDF/A -compliant file of your thesis

You will find here first a brief description of the different PDF/A standards so that you understand their use to archive documents. This is followed by instructions on how to create the desired PDF/A file from a Word document (both Mac and Windows). LaTeX users should get a PDF/A compliant file directly, and they are also advised on how to avoid common pitfalls when striving to create a PDF/A file (PDF/A-2b or PDF/A1b are possible for now).

Why use PDF/A?

All theses submitted and archived at Aalto University via the eAge system must be in PDF/A format.

What is PDF/A?

PDF/A is an ISO-standardized version of the Portable Document Format (PDF) specialized for use in the archiving and long-term preservation of electronic documents. You can submit your thesis in one of the following PDF/A standards: PDFA/-1a, PDFA/-1b, PDFA/-2a or PDFA/-2b. '1' refers to the older, first standard published in 2005 and '2' to the next, newer one published in 2011. The letter 'a' stands for accessible and 'b' is for basic. Thus, the former has stricter requirements than the latter.

PDF/A-2a should be preferred over the other standards whenever possible (this is possible with Word on Mac and Windows). For now, with the LaTeX template only PDF/A-2b is possible.

Official thesis templates 

Use the official thesis templates from here (Wiki; you may have to log in):

LaTeX template files

Word template

Detailed instructions for creating a PDF/A file

Test your PDF/A file

When converting your file from one format to another, even from PDF to PDF/A, the result can be a file that contains images of the pages in the original PDF file put together. This file may be a valid PDF/A file, but it is not an acceptable PDF file: in a proper, acceptable PDF or PDF/A file text is text and not an image of the text. Turnitin, the system that is used to get the similarity report as part of the graduating process, accepts only proper PDF files, hence the importance of this aspect.

A simple test of a proper pdf file is that you should be able to select text, even one character, with your mouse in all parts of your thesis document: the cover page, the abstract page(s), the body text, figure and table captions, footnotes and so on.

Validate your PDF/A file

Validation means checking to see whether the PDF/A file meets the requirements of the specified PDF/A standard. This is done using a dedicated application that is also available on the internet.

Validate your PDF/A file

If your PDF/A file conforms to the chosen standard, the validation result will look something like this:

File filename.pdf
Compliance pdfa-2a
Result: Document validated successfully.

Validate your thesis file for PDF/A compliance well in time

Already well before your thesis is ready, verify that the pdf file of your incomplete thesis is PDF/A-compatible. This applies to all users, LaTeX (Overleaf or your own setup) as well as Word (Mac or Windows). In this way, you will avoid unpleasant surprises before the submission deadline.

Use the official templates from here (Wiki; you may have to log in):

LaTeX template files

Word template

For Word users, we recommend using PDF-XChange to create your PDF/A from the PDF file produced by Word (see the instructions above) because it is installed on all Aalto computers. Choose the format PDF/A-2a or PDF/A-2b.

This service is provided by:

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