PDF In-Depth

PDF-FORUM gets the seal of approval

February 14, 2006

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In early February, the Miami Beach Convention Center played host to the inaugural PDF-FORUM for Print Production. Although I wasn't able to make it in person, intrepid Planet PDF CEO Karl De Abrew was our "Man on the ground" at the show, and last week gave our readers the lowdown on the show as a whole last week. In this exciting installment, he and I each review some intriguing sessions that you may have missed.

Microsoft XPS Document Format ("Metro")

Speakers:

  • MODERATOR: Stephan Jaeggi
  • Daniel Emerson, Microsoft
  • Adrian Ford, Global Graphics

Although I didn't personally make it to the PDF-FORUM, this session was a pre-show hot pick of mine. As an advocate of the PDF format, threats or alternatives to PDF great and small hold a certain fascination. I'm not a one-eyed fan, however, so finding out more about the progress of "Metro" -- AKA Microsoft's XPS document format is very appealing. The fact that the speakers represented two major companies that collaborated to create the format was just the icing on the cake.

Note: For a general introduction to Metro, you might want to check out my earlier article on the topic.

During the session, Emerson provided an overview of the XPS platform, touching upon the reasons it was developed (e.g. deficiencies in the existing Windows print subsystem) and its integration with the pending update to Microsoft's Windows operating system, before delving into some of he structural properties of XPS.

Ford, on the other hand, focused on the potential use of XPS in high-end printing. He contended that although the yet-to-be-released XPS would be capable of use in high-end printing, it would be some time before the technology had the required support from the tool/application side, allowing for a smooth workflow from end-to-end. He also touched upon the phenomenon that universally troubles innovation: inertia. It will be a while before professionals in the prepress and printing fields can be coaxed to change the way that they do things.

Two points of immediate impact, however, would be the use of XPS files as a content delivery format and the creation of better PDF files due to the enhanced Windows print subsystem that will ship with Metro.

PDF Forum closing session:

By Karl De Abrew

Panelists:

  • MODERATOR: Stephan Jaeggi
  • Martin Bailey, Global Graphics
  • Gary Cosimini, Adobe Systems
  • Daniel Emerson, Microsoft
  • Adrian Ford, Global Graphics
  • Dave Kauffman, Kodak
  • Peter Kleinheider, inpetto
  • Julie Shaffer, PIA/GATF
  • Florian Suessl, Meta Design
  • Leonard Rosenthol, Apago
  • David Zwang, Zwang & Company

With almost as many experts on stage as users in the audience looking for answers, if you wanted to get a problem solved then this session was where it was at.

The panelists ranged from experts from PDF creators, Adobe Systems, to other vendors operating within what used to be called the PDF ecosystem such as Global Graphics, Apago, and even Microsoft.

One of the more notable highlights of the session was a discussion between Martin Bailey of Global Graphics and Apago's Leonard Rosenthol regarding PDF versioning and the potential problems that arise from PDF readers that don't flag features within a PDF file that they don't support. For example, imagine opening a PDF file with transparency in Acrobat Reader version 4.0 and pushing out 10,000 color flyers -- only to find out after copy 9,999 that you've all you've done is wasted a few trees and a lot of cash. Bailey thinks that it's important that in these sorts of make-or-break situations that PDF consuming applications should be built to instantly flag this sort of error to the user. Rosenthol says that the way that PDF was designed and that users need to be careful that they're using the latest software.

All panelists agreed that it'd be best that Adobe kept changes to the specification to a minimum and that PDF-related application changes could be maximized to provide more functionality.

After the session, I had a quick chat with Ghent PDF Workgroup Chair David Zwang to ask him his thoughts. He felt that there had been a "genuine need" for the PDF-FORUM, and that there were some exciting things on the horizon, with expected updates to the PDF/X standards and Quark Xpress 7.0, with its "new approach to PDF and preflight."

It all bodes well for next year's PDF-FORUM -- as if we needed another reason to head to Miami Beach!

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