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PDF Update: Transparency, XPS, and More

With all the new PDF subsets, production personnel are left scrathching their heads.

With all the new PDF subsets, it’s not surprising that some production folks are scratching their heads.

Eoin Stewart, national accounts production director for Xpedx and Microsoft Global Procurement Group, comments on PDFX-4’s ability to support unflattened transparency: “I've done a survey with our agencies and printers and live transparency does not seem to be a factor they have interest in. They, based on our workflow, simply see no benefit to it.

PDF/X4 seems to be wonderful for those who would like to incorporate transparency and other elements of the standard, but as it wouldn't provide for an enhancement, it would be innovation for the sake of innovation for our workflow.”

Of course the opposite may be true for you: Transparency can be an important aspect of dealing with the files you get on a daily basis, and being able to deal with these files natively in the RIP without flattening and dealing with possible artifact issues could be exactly what you need to speed up the production process and be certain you will consistently get the results your clients are looking for. The bottom line is that there is a flavor of PDF that fits nearly all print output “tastes.”

And then there’s XPS. A common concern of PDF users has been the perceived threat from Microsoft’s XPS (XML paper specification) file format. Industry experts I spoke to for this article think the apparent lack of momentum in adoption of the specification is rooted in the fact that PDF has been so universally accepted on all computer platforms. Still, a few folks continue to call XPS “the PDF Killer.”

Gary Poyssick, vice president at graphics-training firm Against The Clock in St. Petersburg, Florida, says, “Not five days ago I had a representative from a major publisher—one of the top three—say "PDF is Dead. XML is the winner in this battle and will win the war—just give it up.” But Poyssick isn’t convinced Adobe is in trouble.
Roland Wehlend, founder and director at PDF Tools Canada says, “For those of you who are still concerned about XPS replacing PDF, I recommend that you read the chapter, ‘Is XPS an alternative to PDF/A’ of the booklet ‘PDF/A in a Nutshell’ (available at the PDF/A Competence Center, pdfa.org). Not only are all the good reasons listed as to why PDF (and PDF/A) will not be a thing of the past, but the chapter also describes the pros and cons of both, the PDF and XPS standard.”

But the question of XPS may not really be a problem for print providers using PDF workflows. Since PDF is basically a superset of XPS, Adobe’s Mark Lewiecki states, “Any printer can open an XPS file in Acrobat Pro and then print as PDF print streams.
 

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