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How can I know what software is used in authoring, generating the result PDF document?

For example MS Word, latex/dvipdf, PDF Creator, etc. Can PDF hold such information?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are Producer and Creator fields in the PDF metadata, but they aren't required to be populated, or accurate.

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The legacy way to add "meta data" to a PDF file is using the "Document Information Dictionary". This includes the following fields: Title, Author, Subject, Keywords, Creator (like "Word" as the original creator), Producer (like "Acrobat" as the thing that converted it to PDF), CreationDate, ModDate.

Even though Info dictionary is widely supported the current best practice is to use XMP Metadata. Products like Explorer, Acrobat and Reader will transparently use XMP to populate Document Properties if it exists. XMP is widely supported by multiple vendors, far better defined (ISO standards for different domains: everything from digital photography to document archiving) and simple to subset (Creator is xmp:CreatorTool using XMP Basic schema and Producer is pdf:Producer using Adobe PDF schema).

Read more here in Technote 0003 about basic XMP Metadata in PDF.

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If you use Acrobat{,Reader} to view a PDF:

  • right-click the page content on some page to open the context menu;
  • select "Document Properties..." to select the dialog that displays that info;
  • click the leftmost tab and see if you can find the info you're looking for.

A commandline utility that would display the same info in a cmd.exe window is pdfinfo.exe. pdfinfo.exe is available here: (just unzip to extract pdfinfo.exe, pdffonts.exe, pdfimages.exe and a few more files; no need to "install" -- they run from any location).

Here is an example usage:

C:\downloads> pdfinfo c:\pa\SHARE.pdf
 Title:          SHARE_Information_070808.indd
 Creator:        Adobe InDesign CS2 (4.0)
 Producer:       Adobe PDF Library 7.0
 CreationDate:   08/08/08 10:35:16
 ModDate:        08/08/08 10:35:34
 Tagged:         no
 Pages:          12
 Encrypted:      no
 Page size:      595.276 x 841.89 pts (A4)
 File size:      1474207 bytes
 Optimized:      no
 PDF version:    1.3
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PDFLeo can also show you the metadata. Below is the example usage:

C:\>pdfleo --info Brother_HL_4050_CDN_Manual.pdf
Morovia (R) pdfleo 32-bit Professional Version 1.0
           File: Brother_HL_4050_CDN_Manual.pdf
          Title: 1
         Author: ZZPZ3635
        Subject: N/A
       Keywords: N/A
        Created: 06/29/2007 10:38:30 AM
       Modified: 06/29/2007 04:05:36 PM
    Application: FrameMaker 7.0
   PDF Producer: Acrobat Distiller 6.0 (Windows)
    PDF Version: 1.5 (Acrobat 6.x)
Number of Pages: 211
     Tagged PDF: No
     Linearized: Yes
      Page Size: 8.50x11.00 in
================ Document Security ==============================
Security Method: Password Security               2
  Authorized by: User Password
          Print: Allowed
         Modify: Not Allowed
        Extract: Allowed
       Annotate: Not Allowed
Encryption Level: RC4 (40-bit)

Many PDF creating software put this names in "Application" field.

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