X Marks the File
PDF/X sets a new standard for digital ad interchange and high-end reproduction.
The letter X often represents the unknown—the undefined variable in a mathematical equation or an anonymous entity. In the case of PDF/X, however, "X" indicates identification, specification and standardization. It marks the spot, at least potentially, for the advertising and publishing community.
PDF/X is a new, accredited file format intended for use in professional CMYK print production workflows. The DDAP (Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications) Association, which initiated the format's development, explains PDF/X as a focused subset of Adobe's PDF (Portable Document Format), which limits the format to specific usage, file types and color spaces.
The creation of PDF/X marks the continuation of DDAP's efforts to achieve "Open Process Integration Through Accredited Standards." (For more information about DDAP, visit www.ddap.org.)
The association's initial implementation of its charter was TIFF/IT (Tag Image File Format for Image Technology), based on the DDAP User Requirement Specification published in 1992. "We work to enable tools that allow digital advertising," reports Alan Darling, DDAP chair, and president and COO of Western Laser Graphics, a Valencia, CA-based prepress supplier. "Obviously, we've worked on TIFF/IT for a long time.
"TIFF/IT is good: Either it works or it breaks completely, so you're not delivering bad files," he asserts. But despite the format's success, he admits, TIFF/IT has limitations. For example, it can only contain raster data.
In addition, Darling notes, some people associate TIFF/IT and its subset TIFF/IT-P1 (Profile 1) with a higher-end, higher-cost CEPS environment, rather than thinking of it as a tool to generate digital ads from the desktop. "That's true in some ways, false in others, but it's the perception nevertheless, which means it's something we have to address," he explains. "So, we started looking for a tool to allow the desktop to jump in."