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The ABCs of JDF

(June 2011) posted on Thu Jun 30, 2011

Automating the workflow pipeline.

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JDF’s basic functions: JDF covers the whole life cycle of a print and cross-media job, from concept to delivery. The JDF specification includes four major application areas:
• Job ticket: Information about a printed product that may start with customer intent information and eventually include all process instructions and parameters.
• Workflow organization: A building block model used by management, production, and workflow systems to organize and automate jobs, including detailed definitions of processes, parameters, and job metadata.
• Device control & automation: An open, XML-based command and control language for all shop floor and studio floor software and systems known as the Job Messaging Format (JMF).
• Device capabilities: A method for MIS, workflow, job scheduling, and job planning systems to query devices for their capabilities and for devices to report back capabilities that is useful for both setting up new devices and determining their present status (for example, what media is presently loaded into a device).
JDF and other standards: CIP4 has formal and informal cooperation with many other groups, building bridges between islands of automation. CIP4 cooperates with ISO TC 130, ICC, IDEAlliance, IFRA, PODi, Ghent Working Group, and UP3i. The standards can work together.

The meaning of “JDF Certified”: If a product is “JDF Certified,” it means that it writes and/or reads JDF as established in one of several “Interoperability Conformance Specifications” published by CIP4. These “ICS” documents establish the basic requirements for systems that manage or consume JDF. Certification means that a product has proven that it meets requirements for basic interoperability.

Certifying that products are JDF compliant: The Printing Industries of America (PIA) has a long-term contract with CIP4 to conduct certification testing. At present, PIA is the single global certifying body for JDF systems and software.

How to know if a product is “JDF Certified”: Products certified by PIA will be issued a JDF Certified logo that has a unique certification number. You can look up the details of that product’s certification history with that unique number at

JDF Certification and guaranteed interoperability:
JDF Certification does guarantee a basic level of interoperability, but optional and advanced feature support for JDF may be supported by some products and not others. Hence, when integrating two JDF Certified systems, some setup and testing will be needed still, but the two systems will share a common denominator.

JDF Certification and “plug-and-play”: Professional graphic-arts systems may never be “plug-and-play” in the sense of simple consumer electronics. Quite simply, there are so many possible variations of workflow and production techniques that it may not be cost efficient for everything to be “plug-and-play.” Hence, CIP4 is focusing on establishing interoperability between systems from different vendors, and JDF does not portend to define “plug-and-play” for graphic-arts systems.

Certified products working with uncertified products:
Certified and uncertified products might certainly work together, but you could find that it takes more time and effort to establish interoperability with uncertified systems.

The above information is adapted from material provided by the International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Post Press (CIP4) Organization. The CIP4 website,, provides an array of information about JDF, including general data, tutorials, white papers, calendar items, technical resources, business-development topics, and much more.