National Archives of the Netherlands published a report on preferred file formats, with an overview of their ‘preferred’ and ‘acceptable’ formats for 9 categories. The blog post concerns the ‘spreadsheet’ category for which it lists the following ‘preferred’ and ‘acceptable’ formats:
- Preferred: ODS, CSV, PDF/A
- Acceptable: XLS, XLSX
PDF/A – PDF/A is a widely used open standard and a NEN/ISO standard (ISO:19005). PDF/A-1 and PDF/A-2 are part of the ‘act or explain’ list. Note: some (interactive) functionality will not be available after conversion to PDF/A. If this functionality is deemed essential, this will be a reason for not choosing PDF/AThere are some problems of the choice of PDF/A and its justification.
- Displayed precision not equal to stored precision
- Loss of precision after exporting to PDF/A
- Also loss of precision after exporting to CSV
- Use of cell formatting to display more precise data is possible but less than ideal,
- Interactive content
- Reading PDF/A spreadsheets: This may be difficult without knowing the intended users, the target software, the context, or how the user intends to use the spreadsheet.
There may be situations where PDF/A is a good or maybe the best, but choosing a preferred format should "take into account the purpose for which a spreadsheet was created, its content, its intended use and the intended (future) user(s)."