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Adobe Acrobat 5.0 puts workflow savvy in customer's hands.

Printers offer fast turnaround when error-free PDF files are delivered

You've probably used Acrobat Reader hundreds of times online to open PDF files, but this convenience is only one small part of the entire Acrobat program by Adobe Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif. The software provides the de facto universal language for graphic arts digital printers, a digital workflow doorway, and a boon to anyone who wants to read and output electronic documents.

PDF is the acronym for Portable Document Format, which is created using Adobe Acrobat software ( The company distributes free Acrobat Reader software online and in conjunction with other software publishers on their products, which adds value to Adobe's production software package. More than 300 million copies of Acrobat Reader have been distributed worldwide.

The latest version, $249 Adobe Acrobat 5.0, introduces tagged Adobe PDF, an enhancement that allows the PDF files to be organized in a logical structure, such as title page, chapters, sections, and subsections. The tagged PDF documents can be reflowed to fit small-screen devices and offer improved support for repurposing content.

With PDF, Acrobat 5.0 users can produce files that preserve all the fonts, formatting, graphics, and colors of the source document, regardless of the application and platform used to create it. And, of course, the compact PDF files can be shared, viewed, navigated, and printed by anyone using the free Acrobat Reader software.

Here's Adobe's list describing common document output hang-ups that occurred before the PDF files were invented:

1. Recipients can't open files because they don't have the applications used to create the documents. Anyone, anywhere, can open a PDF file, as long as they have the free Acrobat Reader software.

2. Formatting, fonts, and graphics are lost because of platform, software, and version incompatibilities. PDF files always display exactly as created, regardless of fonts, software, and operating systems.

3. Documents don't print correctly because of software or printer limitations. PDF files are always printed correctly on any printing device.

4. Documents can't be created for viewing across multiple media, such as for print, documents, websites, and handheld devices.

Tagged PDF files preserve a document's visual integrity so it can be viewed on the Web or on a Palm OS device, as well as output in printed form.

5. Content in existing documents can't be repurposed for other uses because of formatting problems. Content in PDF documents can be saved in Rich Text Format and reused in other applications.

Customers' files pose challenges

Although working with PDF files has many advantages, some graphic arts printers are reluctant to accept these files from customers--not because these printers have reservations about Adobe Acrobat and PDF, but because they don't trust their customers' abilities to set up the job correctly in the files. This can be quite a headache when a supplier has to tell his customer about extra charges for additional time to straighten out the customer's digital files.

The problem may lie in the customer's lack of clear understanding of Acrobat's Job Option function. For example, when a designer works in QuarkXPress, he may want to print the document to a PostScript file. First, he opens the Acrobat Distiller, sets Job Options, and then "distills" the QuarkXPress layout to a PostScript file.

There are four job-type selections in the Job Option box: "eBook" for electronic publishing, "Print" for desktop and inkjet printers, "Screen" for viewing onscreen in Web applications, and "Press" for high-end graphic arts printing. The Job Option box tells the Acrobat Distiller how to create the PDF file by including basic instructions, such as resolution of the final file, the page size, compression, font embedding, RGB or CMYK color space, color profiling information, overprinting specifications, transfer functions, and other required details. All this does require good working knowledge of Acrobat, but clients can check their own work by preflighting their jobs before sending them to their printers.

There are preflight checkers that support many types of graphic programs, including PDF files, such as FlightCheck by Markzware Software (, Santa Ana, Calif., as well as programs specifically designed only for checking PDF files, such as PitStop, created by Enfocus Software Inc. (, San Mateo, Calif. These software applications can be employed to head off any disasters before the PDF files are sent to a printer.

Confidence in PDF

Demonstrating their confidence in PDF files in workflow production, many publication printers prefer digital delivery. For example, the Chicago. Ill., giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. offers discounts to clients who prepare their layout pages in PDF. Donnelley employs a Prinergy system by Creo Inc., Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, with PostScript Level 3 RIP for its PDF workflow and can turn around page proofs faster than other methods.

If there are any problems with PDF files, they usually start with the client, who has not created error-free documents. Markzware's Robert C. Claborne comments: "It doesn't do you any good to create a PDF from a faulty native file, because all you get is a faulty PDF file. Once you have ensured the native file is correct through FlightCheck, other things can go wrong. For example, the way fonts are embedded can cause problems. People have to know how to properly distill a PDF for printing."

Since Markzware FlightCheck supports nearly every graphics file format, the company suggests both native files and the resulting PDF files be doubled checked for errors.

Again, how the customer sets up the Job Option box is important for embedded fonts. For example, in Acrobat 5.0, one can embed the complete fonts of typefaces being used, or only create a subset of the specific font characters used in the document. In the first case, the printer (or whomever) receiving the files doesn't have to worry if he has all the specific fonts used in the document. The original layout will appear even if the printer's Times New Roman font isn't the same Times New Roman typeface the customer is using.

When incorporating only a subset in a PDF file, however, the customer includes only the specific font characters used in the document. This approach makes no difference to the recipient, unless someone wants to make copy corrections in the file at the printer. A short headline with a single character typo can't be changed, unless the required missing letter in the same font is found elsewhere in the document.

This brings us to the matter of security. When collaborative documents are in the development stage, creative honchos may or may not want editors or reviewers to make copy changes. Acrobat 5.0 has password protection and 128-bit encryption, plus set options to prevent recipients from printing, altering, or repurposing the content. Therefore, originators retain control of important documents, yet they can share them for comments and feedback. Documents can be easily e-mailed to appropriate recipients. By scanning a signature once, the recipients' actual signature can be recreated as their personal "sign-off" symbol, which is transported to Acrobat's Self-Sign Security function for use. Different levels of access can then be assigned through the security and encryption settings.

Available for Macintosh (OS X, as well as OS 9 and earlier) and Windows (including XP), the latest Acrobat 5.05 can install the PDFMaker plug-in for the Microsoft Office suite, which includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. This adds a PDF button to the tool bar, which allows users to create a PDF file with a couple clicks.

Of course, in its workflow role for page design and digital printing, designers can convert their QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign layouts to PDF files via the Acrobat Distiller. One great advantage in using the Distiller is the PDF files are far smaller than other compression schemes. The InDesign 2.0 has a Distiller engine built in, which makes it a valuable PDF production tool.

Acrobat 5.0 provides for batch processing through its automated tasking ability, which can apply changes to a large collection of PDF files. It is even possible to write new JavaScript for predefined actions in Acrobat. For example, in graphic applications, professionals can crop, rotate, and print a folder of PDF files in one sequence.

There is tight integration between Acrobat 5.0 and other Adobe programs, such as Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and Adobe Illustrator 9.0; and files can be easily shared among all three applications. An Adobe PDF file, for example, can be opened in Illustrator and Photoshop for further edits and enhancements. Files will look and work the same from one application to another.

Acrobat 5.0 even makes it possible to convert files containing transparent objects created in Illustrator and Photoshop into PDF files with no loss of formatting, and the Adobe Color Engine (ACE), Adobe's core color management technology, provides a consistent user experience and reliable color when converting files between programs. Acrobat 5.0 also offers advanced on-press controls, such as previewing overprint, trapping information, tiling output, and printing ICC colors as device colors, all of which can save time and money in the production process.
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Title Annotation:Product Snapshot
Publication:Digital Imaging Digest
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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