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2008: The Year of the Smart PDF

(November 2007) posted on Fri Nov 16, 2007

Intelligent files will be talking to devices.

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By Stephen Beals

This coming year could be the beginning of a universal workflow that’s based on "Smart PDF." The trend has clearly begun, and it’s something that print providers can look forward to moving forward.

The need for this is substantial. Although we have largely overcome the problem with bad files in general, and many files produced are now indeed printable files, we still have a problem: How do you get that file to print the same way on a variety of output devices? Most print providers, after all, offer their customers various output devices. And they often print files that also must be output on high-speed digital devices or even traditional offset presses. They are constantly re-RIPing jobs, and sometimes getting different results on different machines.

Adding intelligence to your files
Companies that make front-end software to feed these machines have been quietly striving to make the process more universal. Indeed, they have to. Companies such as EFI and Kodak not only make the front ends, they also make the print devices. When dealing with both sides of the issue, the problems become challenges, and solving them builds strong customer relationships.

But these companies really do not have much control over the way files arrive. So the approach is to make those files "smarter." The idea is to allow the operator to input data about the files and how they are to be handled by the print device. Since many of the most popular RIPs have been designed to read and understand JDF data, this seems like a reasonable way to get the information through the system.

So the next step is getting that data into the file itself. With such data, operators can add intelligence to incoming files. They can tell machines what needs to be done with the file-including everything from imposition to finishing. When done correctly, this means that files can be sent to a variety of printers and those devices can automatically configure themselves based on the file’s data.