Just over a decade ago, CTP (computer-to-plate) and direct-to-press digital printing began to alter the playing field for the print and publishing industries. Since then, the majority of printers have successfully completed the transition from film to digital file exchange.
But with that shift came new dilemmas. For example, on which types of digital files should the print workflow be based? Who should be responsible for creating these final exchange formats—the content creator, a prepress vendor, or the printer? And what tools and best practices should be put in place to ensure file integrity and a job's success?
Great strides have been made by software developers like Markzware, Enfocus, Extensis, Total Integration, and OneVision to bring to market the tools needed to verify digital file integrity, regardless of the format.
But there remains a lot of work to be done in the area of best practices. Merely having these tools available to supply chain manufacturers does little to ensure they are properly applied to the process, particularly when each workflow is unique.
While we now have accredited file format standards such as PDF/X-1a and TIFF/IT-P1, industry-wide adoption has been slow. These days, printers continue to accept, and even request, everything from native application files to non-standard PDFs to CT/LWs.
Some printers prefer their clients supply locked-down rasterized (or RIP'd) files that have been verified for completeness and integrity before submission. Others prefer clients submit native application files, enabling the printer to control creation of the final RIP'd files and, of course, to pass processing costs on to the customer.
Regardless of the methods, what all digital workflows have in common is the need for not one, but several quality-control checkpoints to maximize success rates and customer satisfaction.
The term "preflight" has, perhaps inappropriately, been adopted by the graphics arts community to generically refer to file verification at any stage in the print or multimedia workflow.