PDF In-Depth

Under the Desktop: JDF and Other Musings

November 19, 2003

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At September's Seybold expo in San Francisco, David Morgenstern looked at several technologies, including digital job ticketing. These tickets and now even content management are being added to file transfer services aimed at creative pros.

One place to check the pulse of professional publishing industry has been the annual Seybold expo in San Francisco. It presents an eclectic mix of products, some focused on small design shops and others on large-scale publishing.

The Seybold conferences cover publishing, emphasizing products that let organizations create, evaluate and organize content, and then later manage and deliver it to viewers. This act of publishing can be to a printing press but also to other mediums, especially to the Internet. This is much different than other industry events that focus on a single medium such as newspaper printing and digital photographic imaging; or commercial printing, as seen at last week's GraphExpo in Chicago.

September's Seybold San Francisco 2003 expo looked to be dominated by PDF workflow solutions and database publishing products that deliver Web pages as their final output (showing that so-called cross media publishing is still the Holy Grail of the industry). At the same time, there was a wide range of content workflow tools: products that help content creators deliver content from one place to another.

Here are a couple of items that caught my eye as I wandered the expo floor:

Punch the Ticket?

While San Francisco is noted for its difficult parking and corps of meter maids (and men), there was also talk of tickets on the show floor.

Seybold held a two-day conference dedicated to digital tickets (the The Seybold - CIP4/JDF Summit, and on the show a JDF (Job Definition Format) workflow was enacted in a live demonstration, with participation from Markzware, Vio, Apago, EFI, Printcafe, Komori and Adobe. What were these companies demonstrating actually?

Digital tickets track the progress of a job through a number of steps in production, containing different types of "who, what, where, and when" information. There can be many stages in a job, each with its own set of steps and check-off points.

Now, ticketing solutions aren't new by any stretch of the imagination and the technology has seen a gradual growth of capabilities. In its beginnings, the digital ticket just logged in bare-bones data, such as who sent a document and when it was received. Actually, that's all most tickets do now.

But managers in a complex workflow wanted more information. For example, the person on the receiving end of a file might want to know more about the job, who's worked on it and who's responsible for different steps, especially when there's a problem with a layout in production, or if the job needs some authorization to continue on to the next stage. Or the costs of a job, which can change.

Many vendors offer solutions depending on the particular vertical market, hardware, and workflow. And that's been a big part of the problem, since these products were mostly proprietary. Each company used a different data format and different requirements for what information would be stored in each field. However, all these differences made it difficult for products from competing vendors to talk to each other.

Content creators have their own concerns about image-related data -- rights information, color space data, among others -- moving correctly through the process.

In the late 1990s several groups formed to address these issues. A consortium of print-focused companies called the International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress Organization (CIP3) focused on a Print Production Format (PPF). Meanwhile, Adobe championed various extensions to PDF, such as its Portable Job Definition Format.

Recently, Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Postpress went to Version 4, now called the CIP4, with the mission to bring the formats together in the Job Definition Format. This new standard aims to be a comprehensive solution, covering information from the very beginning of a job to its multiple outputs (see Figure 1). It combines the usual ticket information with a "message" interchange protocol.


Figure 1. This illustration from the CIP4 Web site shows some of the scope of the forthcoming format. There are two layers of information that run through the entire job: one for business systems and another for management systems. And at the bottom are the workflow-specific areas for design (creation), prepress, press, and post-press and delivery.

In addition to management and creative information, the JDF data can access data about pricing. The data format that will carry all of this information is XML, which is a robust format, well understood by programmers and supported across the computing industry.

Vendors can add their own proprietary information in special fields. This can be used to support various software applications as well as specific hardware functions. In one example, Adobe in late August announced that PostScript 3 Version 3016 comes with JDF 1.1a support. Adobe offers an XML framework for OEM developers to hang their own JDF code.

Over the next three or four years, expect all varieties of creative applications and imaging hardware to integrate support for the standard.

Another JDF tour and conference program is being planned for early December at the Philadelphia convention center. A half-day intensive will be held on Decmeber 9 and JDF tours will be on the exhibition floor the 9th-10th. The tour and program are hosted by IDEAlliance, developed by L. A. Burman Associates, and co-sponsored by CIP4.

Ticket to Ride?

Several vendors showed interesting services that extend the functionality of remote storage and transmission of images.

Startup eMotion Inc. offers various types of content archiving and collaboration services to content companies. The company was formed by a merger including CineBase Software, a longtime digital video asset-management company.

So what do they mean by collaboration? eMotion offers three levels of services that combine remote storage (and its flip side, delivery) with content management capabilities. Many of eMotion's customers are large content companies and enterprises with wide-ranging locations that need to share a common set of content.

The entry-level ArchivePartner lets customers catalog and store images remotely and then find them with a search engine. The next level, CreativePartner, also lets a creative team work on a project together in real time. Using Web-based software, members can annotate images or even film. Finally, MediaPartner Enterprise supports an unlimited number of users as well as customization of the collaboration environment.

At the recent Seybold, eMotion and Equilibrium Technologies announced that eMotion will use Equilibrium's MediaRich Image Server platform, while keeping its own software.

While most customers are charged a monthly service fee, based on their level and number of users, eMotion also offers a plan for a single project. According to Molly Glover-Gallatin, director of marketing, the service's pricing is based on a "utility model," with costs determined by use and requirements. However, a base, "out-of-the-box" ArchivePartner solution costs about $3,500.

Meanwhile, WAM!NET Inc. also made an announcement about its services. At Seybold, the company said it was now a full vendor member of the CIP4 organization and would meet the requirements for JDF compliance.

While offering data management and archival services, WAM!NET is more often thought of as a delivery agent of digital files. The company's Direct! software offers an integrated front-end that lets customers drag and drop files to shared folders on remote sites while maintaining job ticketing information.

In the days, WAM!NET built its own private network, which it offered to mostly large content companies that wanted to ship large digital files with greater reliability, performance and security than offered by the public Internet. Now, WAM!NET offers a number of these services to smaller content shops.

Nowadays WAM!NET can also function as your ISP with its new Internet Gateway service, since it offers the usual e-mail and FTP services. However, if you have a client running another WAM!NET service, it also gives you access to the workflow tools and ticketing information. Depending on the bandwidth choice, the service can cost as little as $35 a month, according to Lisa Andersen, a WAM!NET account manager.

Seybold Scuttlebutt

Here are a couple of miscellaneous items from the conference:

Hewlett-Packard Co. made a couple of announcements at the Seybold expo, showingcasing its new Color LaserJet 9500.

However, am I the only person who sees trouble with the company's "HP + You" campaign? All of its ads and promotions feature huge crosses, much like the Swiss flag, except in multiple colors (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. To some, especially HP's marketing department, these are all Plus symbols. I see a bunch of crosses. Some of its other ads and banners have very big "pluses."

Is this the best branding for an international company in a multicultural world? Just a thought.

Several consultants noted Apple's absence from the show floor, claiming that Apple was neglecting the content-creation market.

Offering a defense, Apple partisans pointed out that the company had a booth at the OracleWorld show next door and attendees at each show could visit the other venue. However, that did little to mollify content mavens -- for that week, Apple chose enterprise database programmers over professional content creators.

The debate was exacerbated given by the then-current release of Apple's Power Macintosh G5 machines. The power and features of these machines have generated plenty of interest in the content community.

My two cents: While some professionals on the Mac have moved to OS X (and you can see some of them here, including Creativepro's Sandee Cohen), most are still running OS 9.x. How many? It could be more than 70 percent, depending on the market segment.

So it appears, in this case, that Apple wanted to concentrate its marketing efforts on this a new group of potential customers who may be willing to look at its new OS and powerful server, rather than its longstanding customers who keep dragging their feet.

Meanwhile, Apple this week said it will release the Panther version of OS X, Version 10.3 on October 24.

As the medieval sage Joseph Ben Caspi observed: "Truth should be neither cowardly nor bashful." The content market may be taken for granted by Apple. Or perhaps when the company sees solid movement to its new machines and the even-newer operating system, will content creators see a bit more respect.

Originally posted on CreativePro.com. Copyright 2003 creativepro.com.

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