What is PDF/E ?

What is PDF/E ?

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January 7, 2023

The Portable Document Format (PDF) is known for its high popularity. It is used in every business, in all industries, and it is used to print certain requirements. We are lucky that Adobe has developed various subsets of the PDF format for each necessity, as every individual who converts a document to PDF has a distinct goal. Understanding which PDF format to utilize for your needs can help you avoid problems when printing, sharing, viewing or archiving documents that were saved in the incorrect format. We will help you learn what the PDF/E file format is. We will cover all aspects, including its types, differences from PDF, and advantages.

What is PDF/E

Table of Contents

What is PDF/E?

PDF/E, short for “PDF standard for engineering documents,” is an international standard designated as ISO 24517 and defines a file format known as PDF/E that provides a mechanism for sharing and archiving engineering documents based on the ubiquitous and well-known PDF format. It is commonly used by the various engineering documentation communities.

The inclusion of three-dimensional engineering model data is a strength of PDF/E, as many three-dimensional data are related to design workflows in some way. 

PDF/E Advantages

Both viewing and storing PDF/E documents do not require any specialized software or hardware. Paper costs are also eliminated from an organization’s expenses because it is digital. Given that it was created by an ISO committee, PDF/E is lossless and can be trusted to exchange information on any platform, just like its native PDF format. It also allows markup and is self-sufficient.

The main advantages include:

1. Reduced storage and sharing costs (compared to paper media)

2. Reduced requirements for expensive and proprietary software

3. Standalone file format

PDF/E advantages

4. Reliable exchange of data across multiple applications and platforms

5. Developed and supported by the ISO committee

6. Cost-effective and accurate means of capturing markups are also important

It addresses challenges with large-format drawings, multimedia, form fields, and rights management because it is designed for technical documentation. Numerous costs associated with a company might decrease thanks to the availability of PDF for the engineering sector.

Who uses PDF/E?

The development of the computer had a major impact on the methods used to design and create technical drawings, making drawing by hand almost obsolete and opening up new possibilities using organic shapes and complex geometry. Today the vast majority of drawings are created with CAD software, and with Adobe Acrobat online services you can also easily convert any drawing to the PDF format.

We strongly recommend that you use PDF/E for engineering applications. If you save the file in the “normal” standard PDF format in programs such as AutoCAD, you may have conflicts and limitations. The resolution is restricted to 4800 dpi, hyperlinks are removed, visual styles in layers are automatically converted to bitmaps, visual wireframe styles are turned into outline objects, object transparency when printed may not always be accurate, and accuracy may be compromised. So you need to save your work in the PDF/E format.

Professions that use the PDF/E format:

  • Civil engineers
  • Architects
  • Interior designers
  • Construction professionals
  • Manufacturers and producers
Professions that use the PDF/E format

In terms of document sharing, collaboration and print accuracy, engineering workflows are improved through the PDF/E format both within the corporation and across partners, suppliers, customers, government and citizens.

Businesses can work more effectively and launch goods to market faster by being able to improve design workflows, which include a variety of complex document sets.
PDF/E satisfies the different demands of both interactive and passive readers. PDF/E is easy to use because it helps you to rotate and stack 3D objects on the screen, which is great for engineering professions.

Types of PDF/X format

Currently, there are two levels of PDF/E versions.

  1. PDF/E-1: the original specification, known as PDF/E-1, is the first and was designed primarily for usage with 2D drawings.
  2. PDF/E-2: In recent times as 3D PDF is becoming more widespread, the original specification is under revision to accommodate the changing conditions and also reflect the major new revision level of PDF 2.0. The new changes are not yet fully settled or published, but are currently known as PDF/E-2.

Instead of one type, it has variations to meet future workflow requirements. An important goal is to improve document sharing, collaboration, and print accuracy within engineering workflows, both within companies and with extended business partners, suppliers, customers, government organizations, and individuals.

Differences between PDF and PDF/E

In this paragraph we will show you a few main differences between the PDF/E-2 and the standard PDF format.

In the PDF/E-2 format…

  1. Document metadata should include author, creation date and modification date, and all other document properties should be in XMP format.
  2. 3D PRC streams are preferred over 3D RichMedia annotations.
  3. It is necessary to specify a color scheme.
  4. Any JavaScript with implicit behavior is forbidden, JS is allowed only where it is triggered by explicit observable user action events.
  5. Security must be disabled if not used in PDF/E-2s mode.
  6. Avoid using Type-3 fonts, all fonts should be embedded in PDF.
  7. The purpose of the output should be specified.
  8. Encryption must be enabled, if the PDF file is protected by a password.
  9. The PDF document must be in the newer PDF 2.0 format.

Do I need PDF/E software for drawings?

Unless you particularly use it for architecture or design, you don’t need special PDF creation software. All you need are DeftPDF converter tools and PDF editors to create your own PDF/E document.

Programs to use PDF/E format

It is quite possible that everyone who works in mechanical engineering is already familiar with this format. But perhaps they don’t know which programs to use. Programs such as Microsoft Visio and AutoCAD support this standard.


The main areas in which you can use PDF/E include geospatial, manufacturing, construction, and engineering workflows. The PDF/E standard provides a mechanism for sharing and archiving engineering documents based on the PDF format, and also supports interactive multimedia, including animation and 3D engineering model data. Its key features for supporting 3D engineering model data distinguish it from others because files created in PDF/E format do not require special software applications to view them. Instead, you can view them with the free and widely available Adobe Reader, which makes them very convenient and easy to work with.

If you found this article helpful, check out our other blog articles.

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