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Four PDF Helpers

A look at Acrobat Pro, Enfocus PitStop, Apago PDF Enhancer, and Callas pdfColorConvert.

One of the key strengths of PDF files is also PDF's achilles' heel: It's not easy to edit a PDF file. If you want to create a file that is "bulletproof"?meaning no one can inadvertently damage the file in the production process"?then PDF is an almost ideal medium. You can embed fonts and control color and assure yourself that the file you send the printer is the file that will be output.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that is not nearly so ideal. The vast majority of PDF files received by print providers for output have "issues." The fonts may not be correctly embedded, the color space may not be correct for the intended output (e.g. CMYK where spot color is intended, RGB where CMYK is intended, or "rich black" where black only is intended). and even if all of this is correct, there is often a need to make last-minute changes"?a prospect that can be extremely painful or even impossible without the proper tools.

Four tools
Lucky for us, however, there's a growing arsenal of PDF-editing tools on the market that can make working with PDF files much easier. let's take a look at four of these, including: Adobe Acrobat Professional, Enfocus Pitstop, Apago PDF Enhancer, and Callas pdfColorConvert. and while there are also several third-party products available for helping with the creation of PDF files, I'll hold these for a future column.

  • Adobe Acrobat Professional: adobe (www.adobe.com) has a couple of different versions of the acrobat product that include Distiller. The more you pay for acrobat, the more features you get, and a print professional probably should buy the complete package. If you are still using acrobat 6, or even the standard version of acrobat 7, you are missing dozens of production tools. acrobat 7 Pro gives the user several tools specifically for print output including the ability to print composites, flatten live transparency, fix hairline rules, and convert colors to CMYK. The Pro version also lets you optimize compression and resolution of images and create large-format (aRCH, aNsI, IsO, and JIs) PDF files. Price: $449, for Mac and Windows platforms.
  • Enfocus PitStop Professional: Pitstop Professional, from Enfocus (www.enfocus.com) is undoubtedly the most universal PDF editing tool on the market. While acrobat Professional now allows RGB-to-CMYK conversion and hairline correction, it still has issues and these can only be resolved with a thirdparty plug-in. Pitstop allows you to add and edit text in PDF documents, although it is not a perfect solution due to the nature of PDF files. (PDF tends to break up lines of text into segments, which inhibits the ability to make changes; also, if the complete font is not embedded and is not available, you may not be able to make changes if the specific text you want to change is not available to the system.)

With Pitstop, you can also: change overprint settings; move, rotate, scale, or shear objects; change the color of line art; re- sample images; modify the color space of images and objects; and change or remove OPI information. In addition, you can add, modify, or remove spot colors. Price: $599, for Mac and Windows Platforms.

  • Apago PDF Enhancer: apago (www.apagoinc.com) has been creating OEM products for PDF creation and editing for several years, but only recently has the company attempted to push its products under the apago name. PDF Enhancer may become as much a "must have" product for PDF editing and management as Pitstop has become, but it does not replace Pitstop (and, unlike Pitstop, it's a standalone application, not a plug-in to acrobat). The key uses of Enhancer are to repurpose existing PDF files for different uses"?you can, for instance, create hot folders that will allow you to automatically create a high-res file for print output and a low-res file for Web viewing, and perhaps a file for printing on your office laser printer all at the same time. You can also quickly merge several PDF files into one document and put new page numbers on the complete document.

In addition, PDF Enhancer automatically gets rid of unneeded objects and applies optimal compression. The effect of running a PDF through Enhancer can not only significantly reduce the file size, but also the amount of work your RIP will need to do. The program allows you to build customized enhancement scripts by combining and altering "targets." The number and types of enhancements you can make are virtually unlimited, and the program can be somewhat intimidating simply because there are so many different ways you can use it. But the preset tools are very easy to understand and apply, and apago has a reputation for helping its customers find solutions for specific needs.

Price: standard edition, $199; Professional edition, $399 (the version you will want); server edition, $999; and advanced server edition $1999. PDF Enhancer 3.1 is available as a free upgrade to customers who previously purchased PDF Enhancer 3.0.

  • Callas pdfColorConvert: From Callas (www.callassoftware. com), pdfColorConvert does one basic thing and does it simply, quickly, and elegantly: It allows you to convert RGB and spot colors to CMYK, as well as making it possible to adjust and modify individual spot colors in a PDF document. "Intelligent conversion" can also be accomplished by assigning or deleting ICC color profiles. It also is a simple matter to convert the entire document to monochrome"?a quick solution for RGB "richblack" documents created by office programs.

If color conversion is the chief problem you have with PDF documents, as it is with many PDF production workflows, this is a relatively inexpensive solution. Converting a document to monochrome is as simple as selecting the proper rendering intent with one button click, and then hitting the convert button. When converting colors, pdfColorConvert automatically creates a copy of the original document so it is only the copy that is actually modified. Because this functionality has been automated, it's virtually impossible to accidentally overwrite the original.

Price: approximately $367 ("??299), Mac or Windows. Callas has a free downloadable sample version that puts a Callas watermark on all documents, but is otherwise fully functional.

A justifiable ROI
Adobe is clearly making PDF the format of the future, and it's a great tool for print production. But editing PDFs can be troublesome without some added assistance. Tools such as PitStop, PDF Enhancer, and ColorConvert are great for increasing your capabilities in dealing with common print-production issues. Add all those pieces together and you come up with a rather significant price tag"?but the resultant increase in productivity could make your return on investment more than sufficient to justify the cost.

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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