At least TexLive creates PDFs by default in version 1.5. Why this particular version?

This question has been asked before in a comment and didn't receive the attention it deserves. (duh!)

This site alone has multiple questions concerning the problem of includegraphics-ing a PDF of a higher version. From the answers, this rather simple problem magically disappears if one changes the version of the output PDF to the appropriate version ... without any side effects.

There are three things about PDF 1.6 which look particularly nice to have:

  1. Embed OTF fonts; no converting required anymore
  2. AES encryption of PDFs; 1.5 only supports RC4
  3. Use the PDF as file container

Number 3 requires a little more explanation. I am thinking along the lines of assignments, collaboration and archiving. With this feature we can have PDFs which carry with them any of the following:

  • all source files of used graphics,
  • raw data for statistics,
  • complete, unabridged and ugly source code files and runnable/parsable scripts
  • the solutions to a test as a separate PDF
  • the entire workdir of *TeX while creating the PDF
  • the actual source PDF, or HTML page if need be, in the bibliography (where applicable)

Yes, I am very intrigued by 3.

With PDF 1.7 we could also store default printer settings with the PDF. This is not that big of a deal, but would smooth out some more ruffles that occur occasionally.

I guess most of the things on my wishlist don't exist out of the box, but currently I still have to wonder if there is a particular reason to stick to version 1.5, especially as it is as easy as setting a single value to move to a more recent version. What are the side effects of moving to PDF 1.7? Are there negative side effects?

  • 10
    I think the main issue is that not all of the tools in texlive that consume pdf are known to work with higher versions, so by default better to generate a safe pdf that is known to render in all viewers on all platforms, etc. Mar 29, 2016 at 11:46
  • 3
    Embedded File Streams exist since PDF v1.3 (section 3.10.3 of PDF Reference, second edition, July 2000). Look at attachfile package... Mar 29, 2016 at 12:21
  • @PaulGaborit Well, its not just about file streams. But still, I just went over the 1.6 specification. Most of the cool stuff has been introduced with 1.3, 1.4 or 1.5, already (sometimes the 1.6 specification tells you when things were introduced with a previous version). I haven't found the one cool new thing that made the container feature worth mentioning for 1.6. Maybe it's just something readers do differently when they encounter a 1.6 PDF and has nothing to do with the file itself. Still looking into it though.
    – Bananguin
    Mar 29, 2016 at 12:51
  • Wikipedia mentions one thing: "cross-document linking to and from embedded files". ... I'll put that on the list!
    – Bananguin
    Mar 29, 2016 at 12:54
  • 14
    Simply because this hasn't been revisited since TeXLive 2010 (when the default was raised to 1.5). Apr 2, 2016 at 17:10


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