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I have a thesis written in word with some figures. I was required to write it in Word, but in the end I managed to deal with the figures. I exported to PDF for printing, and it looks fine on screen and in print. However, in addition to some print copies I have to upload the PDF, and I just learned as PDF/A-compliant file. When I leave everything unchanged except selecting the PDF/A button, the problems begin:

  1. Image resolution for bitmaps drops dramatically; images look terrible (but okay after going back to “normal” (i.e. non PDF/A-compliant). I followed these three suggestions, without real improvement.

  2. In composite figures with textboxes turned to a degree other than 0°, they flip back to 0°. (A workaround I figured out (by chance) for 90° text: Do not turn the box but use text direction instead.)

  3. One figure turned almost completely black (i.e. most likely complementary colors). I solved this only after deleting and re-inserting it.

I use Word 2016 on Windows 10 for writing and creating the PDF/As. I do not have Acrobat.

I tested three methods that do not solve the problem (esp. Problem 1):

  • Export → PDF/A: problem described above.
  • Save as → PDF/A: same low resolution figures.
  • Print to PDF: does not keep hyperlinks.
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Finally it turned out, that - after some fiddeling with minor compatibility problems - opening in Libre and creating the PDF from Libre solved the problem. This means, that in fact Libre compatibility issues are minor as opposed to Microsoft/PDF...

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First question is who requires that it be written in Word, the school or the professor? If it's the professor, you could ask for permission to use something else. You might get a yes, depending on the professor's personality.

Failing that, the main problem is converting from PDF to PDF/A LOSSLESSLY is actually harder than it should be. Acrobat 9+ can do it. Maybe the school, or someone at the school, has a copy and you can use that to do the conversion.

You might also try Libreoffice as well. Libreoffice can read word files, although be warned it sometimes get things wrong. I see pictures rotated 180 sometimes. So this method might require some fix ups before exporting.

There is also ghostscript which can convert a PDF to PDF/A, although this is probably the hardest option.

Finally, be cautious when using some online conversion programs. One study I saw (which I can't find) said about 25% of the ones tested came back with embedded malware.

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