PDF In-Depth

Interview with Seybold Amsterdam Keynote Jan Hein Koningsveld

April 20, 2004

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Editor's Note: Since 1998 Jan Hein Koningsveld has been CEO and president of PCM Grafische Bedrijven, consisting of two newspaper printing plants. Between 1983 and 1997 he served as president of Neroc, the largest pre-press company in Europe, and spent the nine previous years as a publisher at Wolters Kluwer. Koningsveld has been a member of the Board of the Royal Dutch Association of Graphic Industries and of several other branch organizations for many years. He received his master's degree in law from Leyden University in 1974. In this interview, he was ably assisted by Arjen van Aalderen, Managing Director of solidGROUP.

DAN SHEA: How do you think the adoption of standards such as PDF/X has affected the use of PDF in prepress environments?

Jan Hein Koningsveld/Arjen van Aalderen: The problem is that a number of the key elements have not gone past PDF 1.2. While we can use PDF/X in some cases, we still need to ensure that we end up with usable plates. Unfortunately, a workflow is only as strong as the weakest link (or standard), in the chain. We vitally need all stages to match, and this is more important than blindly conforming to the latest standard. This is obviously more of an organizational issue than a technical one.

SHEA: What would you say to people who describe PDF as a panacea/cure-all?

Koningsveld/van Aalderen: In my opinion, there is NO such thing as a panacea (not even PDF). In fact, I’d go so far as to say, "Especially not PDF". This is mainly due to its many possible flavours - hence, there is too much room for error. Because of this, standards are vital for a healthy and reliable workflow, but they need to be the right ones. As I said before, this is far more important than simply adopting the "latest thing" for its own sake.

In our experience, PDF is merely the best solution on offer. It reminds me a little of Churchill’s famous quote regarding democracy: "...democracy is the worst form of government except for all of the others...". From what I’ve seen and heard from other speakers at the conference, it is likely to be some time before something better emerges.

SHEA: What are some of the best things about PDF for print workflows and why?

Koningsveld/van Aalderen: Since the early days, platform independence has been a great advantage in terms of exchanging proofs and final work between prepress houses and clients. Also, we can more easily make necessary changes in PDF than in its predecessors such as PostScript. The fact that PDF is so widely used as an input format means that it’s safe to standardize our workflows around it in terms of tools, training etc.

It’s also important to note that PDF can be used as both an input and an output, which does make things easier than if we had to deal with assorted source formats.

As a rule, the quality of the workflow is far more important than the technology alone. For instance, a solid workflow based on bad PDF will be better than a poor or erratic workflow based on good PDF input.

SHEA: How do you regard the new prepress features of Acrobat 6?

Koningsveld/van Aalderen: There is one we’ve been using which is the device N option (spot colors). This is a great advantage on the front end… Ironically, spot colors are something that we try to avoid on the back-end, as process colors are far less likely to cause issues and print errors.

SHEA: Is there anything you’d like to see added, removed or modified in the next versions of Acrobat and PDF to make your life easier?

Koningsveld/van Aalderen: There has never been a newspaper-specific definition of PDF, and there are a number of issues unique to newspapers (page trim, image area, spot colors etc.) that always need to be fixed with external tools. The simpler the better.

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