Moving Printability Upstream
Nothing disrupts the workflow more than putting unprintable files into the production stream. Conversely, printability is a sure-fire way to ensure workflow efficiency, and save time and money.
Yet for years, content creators unwittingly submitted files rife with errors. Print service providers accepted them, only to later find the files were unprintable.
The type and extent of errors in a digital workflow depends on the kinds of files print providers accept.
If they take in PostScript, there can be problems with missing elements, missing fonts, or wrong page size specifications. Native application files with Macintosh or PC incompatibilities, or wrong versions of the pagination application, can present their own set of problems, and might not be reliable.
It would be great if the PDF format solved these problems. But PDF was designed as a format for 'universal document exchange', not for output on printing presses. It's the jack-of-all-trades and master of none.
A PDF file can look great on the screen, but traditional digital file errors can be lurking within. For example, publishers can use the wrong PDF output settings, and produce files with ideal screen fidelity but horrible print quality.
PDF files might not have all the fonts or OPI links required for printing. They can contain RGB graphics incompatible with a CMYK workflow. And there are many, many other potential problems. Unfortunately, receiving an unprintable PDF file is as bad as receiving an unprintable PostScript file. It can't be magically converted into something printable. To fix a PDF, someone has to reopen the source file and work on it.
To remedy this, printers can assign a customer service rep to train customers in the proper preparation of PDFs, giving them proven settings for each print process, and insisting they use them all the time.
Content creators can use a preflight checklist to minimize errors. However, unless the file is created to the target output specification, fully tested and certified printable before it's delivered, it takes but one problem from a long list of potential glitches to grind production to a halt.
Preflighting prior to production has become a necessity. This removes the added expense of prepress intervention when errors in files, including PDFs, are discovered. But preflighting takes time, requires expertise, and must be done just before production—so it's usually the printer who preflights.
To enable peak production efficiency, however, PDF creation and preflighting should move upstream, to the person ultimately responsible for the file: the content creator. Printers need to provide clear, detailed specifications of how each PDF file should be created to satisfy the print workflow.
The goal is to automate both functions, so that content creators only send PDF files to print providers that meet specified preflight and print-ready requirements. Last year saw the debut of Jaws PDF Courier Internet-enabled electronic document delivery tool kits from Global Graphics Software.
Jaws PDF Courier-based systems allow content creators to create PDF files according to exact specifications required for the print provider's workflow. Enfocus' PitStop preflighting can then be placed upstream to assure everyone in the production chain that the PDFs they create and send can be printed.
The preflighting option allows checks to be performed at the publisher's site, where the original applications and files are easily accessible. Any repairs can be done at file origination, instead of at the printer, who might not have the applications or original files.
This saves time and effort. Content creators can move on to the next job. Print providers can process files faster and more accurately. No wonder the rate of adoption of this type of upstream processing is accelerating around the world.
- Justin Coombes
Justin Coombes is marketing manager for Jaws PDF Technologies at Global Graphics Software Inc. He can be reached at Justin.Coombes@GlobalGraphics.com.