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The Ever-Changing PDF Picture

(March 2008) posted on Thu Mar 06, 2008

What's new in PDF workflow, and how XPS might change all that.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Stephen Beals

Print providers have several choices, all of which involve either a lot of headaches or shelling out some cash for upgrades. One choice, of course, is to mandate that all files be flattened before they’re sent for output. Another is to post a warning that what you see on-screen in old versions of Acrobat may not be what will be rendered on output. The problem, of course, is that the aim of print providers is to produce output, not to troubleshoot files, yet the level of knowledge and sophistication of the folks creating the files for output will determine how effective this strategy will be.

Fortunately, Acrobat 8 Professional also has some great tools for viewing and editing transparent objects without needing to go back to the native page-layout or illustration programs-you’re able to preview how a file will render when it’s flattened. Upgrading to this version may be a good solution, but it’s not a perfect one. It may be difficult or impossible to correct a file that has been built improperly and won’t render the way the client expects it to. And even if it can be fixed, it can be a costly and time-consuming process. Upgrading to an Adobe Print Engine RIP is probably the best solution for ensuring proper file output, but it’s also the most expensive option.

The tools you need

Many of the tools for solving PDF problems are old standbys-products like Enfocus PitStop, Apago PDF Enhancer, Callas PSD ColorCorrect, and Quite a Box of Tricks have been around for years. They have all, of course, been upgraded to work with newer PDF and Acrobat versions, but both Adobe and Quark have added some interesting capabilities to their product lines that accomplish the same things.

Acrobat 8, which most reviewers have found easier to use than earlier versions, with a significantly improved interface, has some features specifically for graphic-arts output, like automatically finding and fixing hairline rules. And some of the best enhancements for the graphic-arts community are the new collaboration features which we discussed in the May 2007 issue of this magazine, in an article titled "PDF Proofing Comes of Age." Suffice it to say, reviewing PDF proofs via e-mail, marking-up corrections, tracking the review process, and viewing and printing comments is a huge help for print providers.