Getting Creative About the PDF
One of the most significant developments of 2003 was a major update to what has become a world standard in communications: Adobe Acrobat. Today, for the first time, Adobe has brought forth an Acrobat version, 6.0, targeted specifically to the publishing and graphic arts markets. To that end, it includes, notably, an elementary built-in preflight capability.
Although independent preflighting technology that is superior and more extensive exists, inclusion of this feature in Adobe Acrobat Professional 6 fits a larger shift in the graphic arts industry: growing awareness of the need to address quality issues in workflows.
The consensus that Acrobat's PDF format is required for a reliable workflow reached mass market proportions in 2003. At the same time, people are realizing that the PDF in and of itself is not the solution; that the critical component to making PDF workflows function is quality control.
The fact that Adobe offers preflight in Adobe Acrobat Professional—as well as support for PDF/X in Acrobat 6 and its InDesign CS product—is a response to this growing market understanding of how to make PDF workflows work.
The activities of the Ghent PDF Workgroup, an organization of graphic arts industry associations from around the globe, is a visible example of the trend. In 2003, the Ghent PDF Workgroup released nine quality specifications, based on the PDF/X specification, then fine-tuned then to specific market segments.
This is not the action of a standard-setting consortium that will take five years to bear fruit. The Ghent PDF Workgroup is a cross-section of industry people seeking real world, immediately applicable solutions. Their quality specifications are built around technology that exists today.
The success of the Ghent PDF Workgroup is evidence that industry associations and their members—printers and publishers—feel the need to drive efforts such as these. It is so important for them to have reliable workflows—both from an economical and a liability point of view—that they are willing to invest a lot of time in the process.
Yet it is not just their willingness that is making the difference. I believe 2003 was the first year where all of the enabling technology components were available, at least for basic PDF workflows.
Many things can and will be improved upon, but the basic components are there. Industry associations and groups uniting stakeholders, such as the Ghent PDF Workgroup, used 2003 to come to terms with what's available, to reach consensus about what technology to use, and to agree on quality requirements to ask for.
This work is absolutely essential and very good news, but even so, it just scratches the surface of what is needed to gain control of PDF workflows. While printers and publishers—the receiving end of a typical PDF workflow—are working towards those quality goals, designers, artists, editors, and other creators must be convinced as well.
This part of the PDF workflow, the crucial creation segment, will undoubtedly be a major focus in 2004. First off, creators have yet to become aware of how fast PDF is advancing. It will soon be apparent that PDF can make their work better and easier than was possible not long ago.
We'll all look back to the period before DRUPA as an era when the PDF seemed completely targeted to the receiving end of the workflow. But having new PDF options for creative professionals isn't enough.
It's incumbent upon vendors, such as our people at Enfocus, to convince creatives of the enormous benefits they can gain from delivering higher quality PDF documents. These benefits are concrete. They include shorter throughput time for documents, higher fidelity for output, fewer returns, and lower costs.
As the technology for creating high-quality PDF documents gets better and easier to use, the year 2004 could offer the creative market the same opportunities 2003 afforded printers and publishers.
Smart PDF engineering is bringing everyone the opportunity to conquer one of the long-standing problems in publishing and graphic arts: offering quality assurance throughout the digital workflow end to end. Stay tuned!
- David van Driessche
David van Driessche is CEO of Enfocus Software. He can be reached at DavidvD@Enfocus.com.