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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

The process will take some operator input up front. The operator must know what needs to be done to the file-for example, is it a booklet or a packaging file requiring cutting, and so on. But the operator will not need to know what device will be printing the file. Instead, the intelligent file will be able to "talk" to the device and give the printer all the information it needs to perform whatever tasks it is capable of performing.

Building a container
The obvious container for this data is PDF, since Adobe has built XML data-handling capability into its file-format structure. What may seem surprising is that the only product currently on the market to create these "intelligent" PDF files is not from a RIP manufacturer, but rather from a small PDF developer, Apago (

Last month, Apago released another new product-so new, in fact, that it doesn’t yet have a name. Based on a product called AcrosuitePro from Prinux (, the release is an Acrobat Pro plug-in that does not use JDF data to get the information to the printers (partly because few printers had JDF capabilities when the Prinux product was first created). But Apago plans to combine its PDF expertise and JDF knowledge in future versions. Even now, the product already supports dozens of printer drivers that run devices from Canon, Kodak, Heidelberg, Xerox, Konica-Minolta, Hitachi, and Ricoh.

What kind of information can be input? At this point, factors such as paper type, stapling, drilling, covers, folding, trimming, and any page-level finishing information can be included. All of this information is written into a job ticket, which becomes the container for the data. This may not seem like a lot-yet. And, admittedly, there isn’t much data in the current release that’s specific to wide format. But the future potential for this approach is huge. The stand-alone product that Apago will release next year will likely contain many more capabilities for controlling a wide array of devices.

What’s significant for print providers is that once this data is written in JDF format, any JDF-compliant printer will be able to instantly grab that data. It really won’t matter what device you are printing to; it will automatically set itself up. There will be less waste, less set up time, more automation, and even the possibility of remote, "lights-out" operation.

And don’t think the big players won’t take notice. I bet that they’ll be scrambling to make "Smart PDF" part of their workflow. Keep in mind that Adobe-the biggest player making products that produce files for output-already has anticipated the need for JDF compatibility in its CS3 suite of products. And RIP manufacturers also have been adding JDF compliance to many in-field devices.

Based in Seneca Falls, NY, writer Stephen Beals ( is a frequent contributor to The Big Picture magazine.