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Music Notation: Preferred Preservation Formats for Digital Scores


PDF/A is an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard 19005 with specific advantages for digital music scores. The "A" stands for "archive."

  • Readable by humans.
  • A sub-type of PDF, a widely used, familiar format.
  • Reproduces notation, text, and layout visually similar to those currently in use by publishers and composers.
  • Appearance should not change over time despite changes to the software by which the document is accessed, rendered, stored, or created.
  • A high-quality PDF.
  • Prohibits certain features, including embedding of audio/visual content, password protection and encryption.
  • Users may need proprietary software for creation, for example Mac and Linux users require Adobe Acrobat Pro.
How to
  • In Microsoft Word on Windows operating systems: Export the music document from your notation software as a PDF. Import it into Microsoft Word as a PDF or TIFF image. Click on "Publish as PDF/XPS document." Name the document, click on "Options," then check the box next to ISO-19005-1 compliant (PDF-A).
  • Other operating systems (requires an Adobe Acrobat Pro subscription): Export the music document from your notation software as a PDF. Open in Adobe Acrobat Pro, click on "Save as Other" and select "Archivable PDF (PDF/A)." 
  • Search for and download PDF/A conversion software.
  • Export file in music notation software to PDF, then save as PDF/A in PDF reader or conversion software.