Adobe PDF 1.3 is 20 years old!

On July 3, 2000 the PDF Reference, Second Edition – Adobe Portable Document Format 1.3 was published by Addison-Wesley:

The new version brought the following new features for PDF prepress files:

  • 2-byte CID fonts (more than 256 characters)
  • OPI 2.0 support (Open Prepress Interface)
  • ICC-based colors (ICC color profiles)
  • DeviceN color space (e.g. for duotone images, spot color gradients)
  • Smooth Shading (blends)


PDF was thus functionally compatible with PostScript 3 (published in 1999), the then predominant format for the output of digital prepress files. One could convert (distill) all PostScript3 definitions into PDF 1.3 and generate a PostScript3 format from PDF 1.3 without any loss.

Twenty years ago, PDF 1.3 was therefore a milestone for the use of PDF as a data format for digital artwork.

However, in the last twenty years since the introduction of PDF 1.3, publishing technology has been constantly evolving (e.g. transparency, layers, OpenType, JPEG2000). Both the popular PDF generating programs and all relevant PDF output workflows have long since supported these new features. It is therefore incomprehensible why so many users have stopped at PDF 1.3 (also used in PDF/X-1a and X-3). This is a technology from the last millennium!

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