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PDF What's in It for Me

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This is a sharable article by Dan Brill related to the history of PDF and PDF development
  ˙ march/april 1997 ˙ graphic exchange 6 SYOUWILLRECALL from last issue, Adobe hasmade some very large promises withrespect to what its new PDF(PortableDocument Format) file format will do to injectpredictability and efficiency into the desktop printproduction workflow.Reliable file integrity, smaller file sizes, less preflight-ing, final page previewability, faster and more predictableoutput time, the elimination of film proofs, and data repurpos-ing; and I am all for every one of these benefits. PDFand the schizophrenic publisher   You have to understand one thing before I start. Yes, I’m a publisher,but I’m a publisher with a serious case of schizophrenia. Not only do I wearthe publisher’s hat (which means my primary concerns are looking after my ad- vertisers and reducing production costs) but I also have to think like an editor(copy is never really finished until somebody pushes “Print”), an art director (can Isee it? can I taste it? can I trust it?), a designer (don’t make me spend a bunch of timelearning new software, and whatever you do, make it easy and intuitive), and a produc-tion manager (get the damn job out, and don’t give me any more responsibilities).Don’t get me wrong. Despite its awkward, complicated, aggravating nature, my currentPostScript workflow still works (most days). It gives me what I need (more or less): creativelatitude, control over my production, and a printed magazine. Nevertheless, the publisher/edi-tor/art director/designer/production manager in me pines for a smoother ride to press (and my printer wouldn’t raise any objections either).So what’s really  in the PDF workflow for me — and me and me and me and me (and him)? Meandering toward the ideal publishing workflow  For purposes of present discussion I’m going to make a couple of assumptions (even though makingleaps of faith runs contrary to my inbred Perry White instincts).First, I am going to accept the basic core of Adobe’s contentions regarding PDF: well-structured codethat behaves properly and is now usable in high end print production; and viewable page format that isfont, application, device and platform independent.Second, I will close my eyes, tap my heels together three times, and believe that, yes, Dorothy, before the year is over, third party developers will provide PostScript Level 3 support in these critical areas: PDF ripping(a fundamental feature of PS3), RIP-based trapping, PDFcolor management (which shouldn’t be an issue sincePDF files carry the same color tags as the PostScript files), and either pre-RIP or (preferably) post-RIP imposi-tion (which must be developed within or for each individual vendor or service provider’s workflow).In my own workflow today, I use a hard drive to transport my job, a magazine in electronic form (except for PDFPublishing What’s in it for me?  BY  D  AN B RILL Before Adobe’s PDF file format can succeedin becoming the standard for cross-media creation, it must first satisfy the demands of highend print production. Agfa’s announcement of its commitment to a PDF Publishingworkflowraises the bar even higher. A  7 graphic exchange ¨ march/april 1997 ¨ a few full page ads that get stripped in at the printer), createdon a Mac. This isn’t particularly practical, and I could trim itdown to a couple of Jaz cartridges, or a boxful of Zips orSyquests, but that 2 Gb hard drive gives me the luxury of throw-ing on support documents and extra fonts and my own versionsof applications and system utilities and lots of other stuff that Imight unexpectedly need. Suffice to say that this works for me.But that means toting around a couple of gigs of data and lit-erally thousands of elements: Quark  files, big TIFFs, little TIFFs,composite EPS’s, separated EPS’s, line art, grey scale images;straight vector files, vector files with bitmaps in them, bigbitmaps; and lots of fonts and utilities. Despite my careful at-tempts to check that everything is print-ready and in the box,something invariably gets overlooked, misplaced or corrupted.I’d be extremely happy if I could reduce the volume of filesand the complexity of my job. As a matter of fact, I know exact-ly what my ideal number of final production files is. One. Withperhaps one backup. But just one final file, ready to push Print.I’m also looking for a way to know that anything I hand overis preflighted and rock solid. I don’t want any more calls saying,“Got a problem with page 53. Keeps crashing the RIP. Can weget a replacement file?” Five heads aren’t necessarily better than one  Mine is not simply a PostScript workflow. As with most pub-lishers these days, it’s specifically a Quark  -based workflow. Inever really  see  a PostScript file and I don’t really  want  to see aPostScript file. I blithely let Quark  separate the file, write it toPostScript code and download it to be ripped and plotted.I also want to get advertisers’ files that don’t need fixing. Inthat respect, I’m just like the service bureau, except that it’s awful-ly tough to ask my advertisers to pay for massaging their files — especially since I’m the one who told them not to give me film.So now I’m paying the piper for files or fonts that are nogood. Even if they print on my laser printer, it’s no guaranteethat they will rip to the imagesetter. Which is to say, I can live with the inconvenience of learning AcrobatDistiller  and creating PDFs from Quark  files if the pay-off is guaranteed output. If I could also shorten my turnaroundtime and lower my prepress prep costs, the incentive to alter my  workflow sooner would be that much more compelling.But how do I train my advertisers to deliver their ads asprintable PDFs? And what do I do with them when I get them?The editor in me says PDF is a good thing if all it does isprevent those damn text reflows and font substitutions. And it’shandy to be able to fix a typo. However, it’s not  much use when, just as a page is set to go, I suddenly think of  exactly  theright wording to fix that cumbersome sentence on page 47, which means rewriting the whole paragraph. And what about when the publisher drags in that last minute ad and I have torework my carefully fitted story to accommodate it? (Alas, somethings will never change.) As the art director, PDF is already a blessing. Acrobat  lets meexchange low res files with artists and designers for approvingconcepts and layouts. But when I want to adjust a picture a pix-el to the left or to the right, or play with a bothersome drop capfont, or rotate an image clockwise a fraction of a degree, or re-size it a half of one per cent — it’s back to the application file. And how does the designer feel about PDF? Well, I can’t de-sign pages in Acrobat  , so it doesn’t help much that way. If you want me to save my finished pages as PDF, fine. Give me ascrolldown menu in Quark  that says “Save as PDF”; otherwise,don’t expect me to start learning another piece of software. I’mstill on page 3 of the Photoshop  manual. And the production manager, who you know  takes the blame when anything goes wrong? He doesn’t like to change to an un-known, unproven workflow from something that works.Prove that PDF can do everything Adobe says it can do,show me how it doesn’t just create new nightmares to replacethe old ones, and I’ll consider adopting it. But you also know who’s going to have to learn all the ins and outs of distillingfiles, of course. So make it simple. And make it bulletproof.Give me digital color proofs I can rely on. And above all,give me a good job docket (the easier to set up, the better).  Agfa goes live with PDFPublishing workflow strategy  It’s another gorgeous March day in Key Largo, Florida — 75degrees Fahrenheit and sunny.I’d be out revelling in the sunshine, except for the fact that I’msitting in an airy meeting room at Key Largo’s swishy Ocean Reef Club, attending Agfa’s Executive Conference on PDFPublishing.In the room with me are a flock of Agfa marketing and productmanagers, four key people from Adobe, and 26 technology man-agers and workflow experts hand-picked by Agfa from the creamof the North American graphic arts industry. More than a dozenof the biggest, richest printers and color separators in North America are represented, a group whose cumulative annual rev-enues total $10 billion or more. Completing Agfa’s invitee list areabout a dozen PostScript prepress mavens, wizards and pundits. John Harrison, Agfa’s worldwide director of marketing forimage processing systems, is laying out a workflow modeldesigned around PDFand PostScript Level 3. It assumes the useof PDFfiles for a multiplicity of purposes: conventional printing,digital printing, multimedia and Web. This is the first compre-hensive PDF-based workflow unveiled by a major vendor asidefrom Adobe, and incorporates off-line pre-ripping and imposi-tion, and optional in-RIPtrapping. Agfa mirrors Adobe’s Supra architecture, except that the“Normalizer” and “Page Store” in Supra are replaced by Agfa’sPDF Production Manager, which logs in PDF files and distillsPostScript to PDF. Instead of Adobe’s real-time live processingapproach, Agfa divides up the production steps: PDF orPostScript in and diagnosed, PostScript Level 3 interpretation, ras-terization, storage and output.PDF Production Manager reads the electronic Job Ticket,defines the PDFpage imposition (through pointers, describing abatch of pages going to a “virtual flat”) and sets trapping, screen-ing and separation values. It can also write the PDFflat back toPostScript Level 2 for ripping on PS2 RIPs, or even route the fileto an APIS box for ripping through another manufacturer’s RIP.  9 graphic exchange ¨ march/april 1997 ¨ The PDFflats are ripped through Agfa’s PostScript Level 3PDFRIP (or multiple RIPs), where trapping and OPIreplace-ment are performed. The resulting raster file is picked up by a Print Output Manager for output on a Hewlett Packard plot-ter or an Agfa output device. Or it can be transferred to aserver for storage, archiving, or digital distribution to aremote location. The Output Manager also includes aPrintViewer for viewing the ripped file, dots and all. PDFdebates and futures, hopes and needs   Agfa’s vision for a PDFworkflow is all-encompassing andextremely ambitious: support for either pre-separated or com-posite workflows, trapping off-line or at the RIP, and a work-flow that can be cross-media or cross-vendor. As we sit around the table, telling senior Agfa and Adobeexecs what’s right and what’s wrong with their proposed PDF workflow model, we’re pulling no punches.The Agfa guys are giving it back as good as they get,emphasizing their need to prioritize which feature sets tofocus on first and which workflows to support.But they’re getting hammered in the corners by some of the big printers over topics like the inability to easily integratescanned film into the workflow, and the flaws in not impos-ing post-RIP, and how powerful PS RIPs will need to be toperform separations, trapping, screening, rasterization andspooling functions all at once, and the impossibility of mix-ing an Agfa PDF workflow with a Creo CTP workflow, andthe workflow’s lack of support for other formats such asTIFF/IT. For a student of desktop technology like me, it’s alot of fun.I hear some new terms and concepts: “Productizing.”“Reference document space.” “Dissolving into a ‘network-centric’ publishing model.” “Digital Master.”I hear recurring articulation of users’ needs: a reliabledesktop-to-CTP workflow; maximum last minute editability;foolproof electronic job tickets; the elimination of print dri- vers from the desktop workflow; the separation of PostScriptinterpretation from screening and raster functions; a contentformat that is cross-everything; content creation once, distri-bution through many media; and more promotion and aware-ness advertising by Adobe to raise PDF’s profile.Most important of all is the gnawing question: how soonand how readily will the customer adopt PDF as a standard? Afterwards, Alan Darling, chief operating officer at WesternLaser Graphics, sums it up: “I thought it was a very good ses-sion — what a great group of people. It was unfortunate that we all concentrated on the reasons why PDF workflow wouldfail, rather than analyzing the benefits of going there — Iguess that’s just the nature of the beast, and indicative of howbadly we have been burned by ‘open systems’ in the past.“The problem with the open solutions that were thrustupon us in the late 80’s and early 90’s is that we had to dothe integration and work out the fixes to make these 80%solutions work. I think that everyone is loathe to have tofind that extra 20% (and probably a different 20%) again!” PDFin a QuarkXPress-centric workflow  To become a graphics standard, PDFwill have to be ac-cepted by every print production manager. With my production manager hat firmly in place, I ques-tion the notion of  Quark  -based PDF publishing straight on.Namely, what is Quark  ’s position on PDFsupport?My e-mail to Tim Gill at Quark  elicits this response:“[Tim] called Adobe [in October] to see if they had avail-able code that would allow Quark  to import and print PDFfrom within Quark   XPress. At that time they indicated thatsuch a code library was not available. That didn’t mean thatthey wouldn’t have it at some point, simply that they didn’thave it then (or that we talked to the wrong person). [Tim]talked to John Warnock [in early March] and he indicatedthat the libraries to do that are now available. We’re current-ly waiting for info on what’s involved.” What I hear from Quark  is, don’t hold your breath.So I can’t place a PDF in Quark  as if it was TIFFor EPS,and I can’t save a Quark  file directly as PDF. But I can  opena PDFin Exchange  or even Illustrator  (although it’s painfully slow), export it to EPS, and place it in Quark  . And I can  manually save a Quark  file to PDF by creating a PostScriptfile and automating AcrobatDistiller’  sdistillation procedure.I’m not thrilled with converting PDF back and forth. But Ialso assume that this is only until Quark  adds PDFimportand export support. And if not, some ambitious XTensiondeveloper certainly will. A PDFImport XTension called Gymnast  has been in development for some time, but stillno word on its release. As well, PDF has to be able to han-dle fractional pages, which are presently problematic. As far as configuring Distiller  ’s Job Options, I expect the vendors to provide a library of automated scripts as Post-Script Level 3 products emerge. And I hope they will be sim-ple drag-n-drop interfaces.Then there’s the trapping issue. If I trap in Quark  , and sendthe file with separations off, I lose all Quark  trapping. That’sfine, as long as the RIP has automatic trapping. If I send withseparations on, I get four separations that can’t be viewed ascomposite in Exchange  . Wouldn’t it be nice if  Acrobat  couldlet me see my page either composite or separated?I prefer the simplicity of a composite workflow, and Idon’t really want to trap anyway. So if PostScript Level 3 RIPscan handle trapping effectively, that’s the end of it. But if not?Editorial workflow produces finished pages on a story-by-story or section-by-section basis. When they’re ready, I wantto send them to the RIP as single pages, and impose post-RIP. Imposition before or at the RIPwould mean stockpilingpages until a flat is complete, but I don’t want to wait. I wantto see single page digital color proofs as quickly as possible. And  I want the proof I okay to be produced from the sameripped file that goes to film or plate.Finally, there’s the bible of my job: the Job Ticket. Therebetter be a way for me to lock out changes if I choose, and CONTINUED ON PAGE 12  ˙ march/april 1997 ˙ graphic exchange 12 an audit trail to indicate if and when any changes are made.To the designer in me I say: go with theflow, babe. All those precious designs andlayouts will keep happening in our favoriteapps. PDFis just the lock on the door. And“Save as PDF” is already built into Adobe ap-plications, though it may take time for Quark  to follow suit.But my designer persona would like topoint out that, sure as Bill has billions, Ex- change  offers not even the most rudimentary design tools. Some simple grids, guides andrulers would be a small bonus, Adobe folks. You know, those straight line thingees youjust finally added to Photoshop  ?Of course, that’s after you figure out howto let me move an object on a PDFpage, oreven perform a simple undo.Meanwhile let’s keep the art director as faraway as possible from PDF in production. Justkeep using PDFWriter, big fella.But the editor is quietly reading the Sey-bold advance press releases on at least adozen new or improved Acrobat  high endPDFplug-ins. For the production manager,there’s Tailor, aPostScript preflighter. Forprinting, Lantana Research now has Cracker-  jack, the Adobe module that was in develop-ment under the name Extended Print Services  .For the designer, the art director and eventhe editor himself, Scissors  , an object-oriented Acrobat plug-in, makes Acrobat pages  fully editable  . With Scissors  , working in either wire-frame or preview mode, you can move androtate any element, and add or modify linesand curves, including clipping paths. But textis also object-oriented, and as such not muchmore editable than in Acrobat.But then the publisher asks, Does anybody realize how difficult (or even impossible) it’sbeen to convince ad agencies to supply ads ondisk? And now you think I’m going to be ableto convince them to jump on the PDFband- wagon? What’s the incentive to do it — thatdoesn’t come out of my pocket? Answer that one, and maybe then the all-digital publishing workflow will have abrighter future. But without agency accep-tance, the dream of eliminating film and goingstraight to plate begins to dim.There are still holes in the high end PDF Creating a final PDF production file beginswith the creation of a PostScript file frommy QuarkXPress document.1. Under  Printer Type in the Page Setup dia-logue box,I could choose the Acrobat Dis- tiller PPD which comes with Acrobat.How-ever,I’m using the Scitex Dolev PS PPDbecause it’s supposed to be more reliable.(Iwant my PostScript file to be distilled auto-matically,so I’m using the PSPrinter 8.3.1LaserWriter Driver and the Distiller Assistantwhich comes with Acrobat to distill the Post-Script file once it’s created.) This also meansthat I had to make sure my Distiller prefer-ences were set up correctly before I start-ed. Substitute Fonts and Smooth Graphics in the Options menu are turned off since thiswould create a much larger PostScript file that would take longer to print and display. 2. Now I go to the Print dialogue box.In the Destination box,I select PDF,leave Separa-tions Off  , Registration Marks Off  ,and thenclick on Save .In the next dialogue box,I se-lect Compatibility for PostScript Level 2, In-clude All Fonts ,and set Binary file format.Once the file is saved,distilling of the Post-Script file occurs automatically.I can choose to save or delete my PostScript file and/or automatically view the resulting PDF file.(Thisoption does not work with LaserWriter 8.X.) Tip: Keep in mind that I could also designate a Distiller station ,another workstation onmy network that would receive and distill thePostScript files from a Hot Folder. Tip: Get the Luminous Prepress XTension (LPX) that builds even better PostScript. This is how I imagine a QuarkXPress-to-Production PDFworkflow wouldlook in my Macintosh environment. PDFs are immensely useful for checkinglayouts and simple page idea exchange.But Acrobat also lets me add,replace,delete or copy pages in a documentmuch easier thanmostpage layout programs.Acrobat’s Security feature lets me lock files.It also meansmy advertisers could lock me out of theirs ( that good or bad?).Keepin mind that we are waiting on some parts whichneed to be developed by Quark,Adobe or various prepress systemvendors. PageassemblyFinalpaginationPrint pages to PostScriptPrint Pages to PostScriptPrint PDFproofsEditorialapproval PostScript files canbe created and dis-tilled automatically,using PSPrinter 8.3.1and Distiller Assistant. DistillPostScript pages Files are distilledusing predeterminedpreferences specifiedby printer.To create PostScriptfiles and Distill themautomatically, usePSPrinter 8.3.1 andDistiller Assistant. DistillPostScript pages Files are distilledfor low-resolutionproofing and internalapproval. Soft proof in Exchange Design & LayoutPDF Production Ideally, ads suppliedas PDFs. Unfortunatelyit’s notyet possible toplace PDFs into Quark. Soft proof and define job ticketin Exchange To Printer  Design & LayoutPDF Production The automated PDFJob Ticket (which couldbe provided by theprinter) is the back-bone of this work flow. How I would design my ideal PDF publishing workflow model PRODUCTIONSUPPLIEDEDITORIAL CONTINUED FROM PAGE 9
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