(January 2006) posted on Thu Jan 05, 2006
Update your printers and software, because the digital industry industry is constantly changing.
By Stephen Beals
Files: bigger, less-professional, more PDFs
You probably have already had a glimpse of some of the incoming-
file trends you're sure to see more of this coming year. Here's
what I believe you'll find"?and have to deal with"?in 2006:
- Files are bigger. Remember when digital files arrived on
floppy disks? Today, many files won't fit on a 100-MB Zip disk
(remember those?). Raise your hand if you are starting to get
files on UsB flash drives. My company receives the vast majority
of its jobs on CD and some on DVD. I admit to a slight panic
flutter when a job arrives on a half-dozen CDs, but this isn't
- Transparency is the "in" thing. It may still choke your RIP to
get multiple-layer Photoshop files from your customer, but you
will probably need to figure out workarounds because designers
simply love to play with transparency. It's another reason
you need the latest-and-greatest hardware backing up the latest-
- Who's creating these files? You've no doubt seen a growth
in the number of nonprofessionals involved in creating files
intended for professional output. You're likely receiving files
created in Word, PowerPoint, and Publisher"?and all by people
who have no idea what it means to embed fonts, convert color
space to CMYK, or collect for output. They have no idea what the
terms "color management," "overprint," or "trap" mean, but they
love to play with their software controls for all of these file attributes.
If these folks are not already making your life miserable,
they will be.
- PDF is taking root. Customers providing PDF files could be
a good thing, but it probably won't be until designers figure out
how to create printable PDF files. Given the penchant for transparency
and the increasing lack of appropriate training for file
creators, PDF is not yet the holy grail that had been hoped for.
But standards committees such as the Ghent PDF Workgroup
(www.ghentpdfworkgroup.org) and new Acrobat features are
helping, and 2006 could be a year when designers begin getting
the PDF training that will help make our lives easier.
Print providers can help themselves by providing their own
training to customers, and promoting products such as Enfocus
Instant PDF and PDF Create (www.enfocus.com) and Apago
PDF Enhancer (www.apago.com). It will also pay to continue
training your own staff"?this is no time to be stuck with old
technology or untrained technicians.
What doesn't kill us"?
As negative as all of this may sound, files and design will
improve after customers get over the novelty of transparency
and receive proper training. Improvement will also come
once the "business-software" file creators get hit with enough
rework charges to realize they should be using software that's
actually designed for print (or at least learn how to make their
files more print friendly).
The year 2006 is going to be a shake-out period, and it won't
all be pleasant. But most of us will survive, and those who do
will be better for the experience.
Stephen Beals (email@example.com), in prepress production
for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.