PDF is now ISO 32000-1, an international standard

The next version of Microsoft Office, still called "Office 14," will support by user-chosen defaults at least two published international standard document formats. But at least for now, neither of them was Microsoft's to begin with.

This morning, the International Organization for Standardization announced its completed publication of ISO 32000-1, rendering the Portable Document Format effectively the property of the people at large. It is no longer Adobe's PDF.

In a statement this morning, ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden praised the publication, using language that some may have expected was reserved for ISO 29500 -- the Open XML format whose formal specification process has been indefinitely delayed by four countries' appeals.

"The standard will benefit both software developers and users by encouraging the propagation and dissemination of a common technology that cuts across systems and is designed for long term survival," Bryden said.

On the ISO's enumerated map of progress, this puts PDF right at the sweet spot of status code 60.60. By comparison, ISO 29500 is stuck at 40.99, where the final draft of the standard is ready for registration but which awaits final approval.

Like Open XML, PDF 1.7 was introduced to ISO by another standards association, in this case AIIM (the former Association for Information and Image Management). Throughout 2007 and into the following year, ISO members issued a multitude of suggestions for improving and making "normative" the draft specification, including making references to software more vendor-neutral (by removing references to Adobe and Acrobat, for instance), excising portions of the draft standard that were being maintained purely for downward compatibility with previous Adobe products, adding the letter "u" to "colour," and replacing plain active voice with more emphatic active voice, such as replacing the verb "are" with "shall be."

These were among the many little issues that jostled, but did not upset, the PDF standardization effort, and about which very little attention was paid, perhaps because the fact that Adobe was the author did nothing to change their relative triviality.

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