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Ensuring that PDF is the Future of Print

(July 2006) posted on Wed Jul 05, 2006

Adobe's PDF Print Engine will be sold to OEMs.


By Stephen Beals

Adobe would like you to believe that its new PDF Print Engine is the best thing to happen since sliced bread. That may be a slight exaggeration, but as far as printing is concerned it"?s certainly a development on the level of the introduction of the Mac or Adobe"?s own PostScript language.

The PDF Print Engine"?which is essentially a new RIP package"?will not be sold as a standalone RIP product, Adobe reports. Instead, it will be sold to manufacturers of OEM RIPs, including companies such as Kodak (Creo Prinergy), Agfa (Apogee), and Heidelberg (Prinect). All of these companies have already announced that they plan to support the PDF Print Engine; they and other companies will integrate the new engine into their products, adding their own features such as editing, imposition, and trapping. And while the first Adobe PDF Print Engine products will likely come from these big players,
it"?s reasonable to think that it is bound to migrate to other companies over time, and is likely to spawn "clones"? from other RIP manufacturers"?just as with PostScript.

The caveat is that, as exciting as the prospects are for this new product, print-production technicians won"?t actually see it until this fall"?s Graph Expo in Chicago. Even then, we may only see demo versions with "planned shipping dates."?

Worth the wait
But no matter how long it takes Adobe to bring its PDF Print Engine to market, it will be worth the wait. Here"?s why:

The biggest plus of a Print Engine workflow is that it will eliminate almost all of the biggest problems currently left unaddressed, or otherwise awkwardly addressed, by current PostScript RIPs. PostScript, for example cannot deal with transparency or layers natively. Files must be rendered or flattened prior to the raster imaging process. The problem is that to really do this properly, the final output color space ideally
should be known, because once the rendering is done for a particular color space, it can"?t be changed without starting all over again.
The new Print Engine workflow, however, will handle layers
and transparencies natively. That means the output
Ensuring that PDF is the Future of Printcolor-space decision can be made in the final output. It also means if you want to change output devices, you can. If, for instance, you have a file going to a web press, a sheetfed press, and a wide-format printer, you can use the exact same file for each device and get output that is specifically tailored to the color space of that device. One file, one format, any output device"?that"?s a major advance.
But Print Engine is more than PDF with layers and transparency.
It also supports JDF (Job Definition Format) in a manner that may finally make JDF useful for designers and print shops. Data such as page size, file format, output intent, sheet size, paper attributes, and so on could be put into the file from the beginning and stay with the job throughout. You could prevent multiple entries of data (and avoid the inevitable
errors), making sure that everyone at every step has the same information to work with. JDF could then be used to set up your folders and bindery equipment and run the "lights out"? shop that pundits have been predicting. In fact, shops utilizing wide-format printers may find JDF more useful sooner than will commercial printers because wide-format is typically more of a "closed-loop"? than are other print workflows.

And here are a few other intriguing features:
"? JDF calls could be used to automate sophisticated in-RIP trapping and in-RIP imposition;
"? By deferring color conversion until the last possible moment, all color decisions could be made in accordance with the specific device that"?s being targeted;
"? Adobe PDF Print Engine supports all versions of PDF including the new draft PDF/X-4 specifications; and
"? It will be cross platform. In fact, with font embedding and keeping the final output entirely device specific, almost all of the opportunities for wreaking havoc on files of different machines using different rendering intents will be eliminated.

Weaning from PostScript
PDF itself has already become well-established in print workflows,
and is relatively free of limitations. Adobe PDF Print Engine ensures that PDF is the future of print. has said it will not be scrapping PostScript anytime soon. But PDF simply has more going for it, and I wouldn"?t expect Adobe to keep PostScript on life support any longer than necessary to wean Adobe"?s well-established
base off of PostScript and onto solid food.

Stephen Beals (bpworkflow@verizon.net), in prepress production
for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.


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