Best Practices for PDF and Data

This blog post was amended on 2017-10-24 to highlight a key message of our report, contained on pages 1, 4, 5, 6, and 16, that spreadsheets of data should be shared as spreadsheets or CSVs, not printed to PDF. View the latest version of this blog post.

Best Practices for PDF and Data.

Earlier this year we shared news that we were working with Adobe and The ODI in London to investigate how PDFs could play nicely with data. Today we are sharing our report containing our findings, and making recommendations.


Download Best Practices for PDF and Data.pdf now.


Our work and interviews have been extremely wide-ranging. We’ve heard from people in the open data community who recoil in terror at hearing the word PDF. We’ve heard from people whose jobs would not possible without it. We’ve used, improved, written, and published our own open-source software and tools to make more of the standard.

There is good reason for many to look again at the PDF format. It is an open standard, it can be manipulated with open-source tools, and it can contain data in many forms.

Our report is available in the PDF standard that you all know and many of you love. Additionally, it makes use of PDF support for attachments to include structured data including a fully editable version of the report, the appendices, and our spreadsheet of use cases at the time of publication.

Report with attached files in PDFAttacher
The report includes data and other file attachments.

You can create similar PDFs using our open-source PDFAttacher software.

What's next?

The next steps that we set out in the report will be continued in collaboration with The ODI in London via the W3C Community Group on PDF and Open Data . Please join us in the W3C Community Group and add your use-cases to our open use-case spreadsheet.