PDF and Prepress

Tom Mornini heads up InfoMania, and the prepress-l discussion list. We caught up with Tom to discuss the up and coming Acrobat 4.0 and its implications for prepress professionals.

Q.1 Tom, as a prepress professional of over 12 years, could you offer a description of the roles that Acrobat has traditionally played in prepress?

We started using Acrobat at version 2.1 for getting a "rough" preview of PostScript files before we imaged them on our imagesetters. It was nice to be able to see what was going to come out before we spent money on film.

With version 3.0 Adobe included support for all high-end, high-quality PostScript operations to be coded into PDF files. This was a huge leap forward and started many people thinking how PDF might in fact replace PostScript itself and application file interchange as well.

Q.2 Will Acrobat 4.0 radically impact on prepress - perhaps bringing acceptance of PDF as a transport mechanism for the prepress industry.

While acceptance isn't universal yet, I think that version 3.0 actually created the phenomena that you describe. 3.0 was completely useful for single color and process color jobs. 4.0 fixes some issues that prepress vendors have voiced (like embedding of the base 14 fonts, which 3.0 wouldn't do) and adds support in PDF for composite spot color support, which was a complete disaster in 3.0.

Q.3 There's been much talk of the Adobe Portable Job Ticket Format and PostScript Extreme, is this in widespread use in the industry - has it taken a foothold?

No, it hasn't yet. Most printers and service bureaus aren't comfortable enough with PDF to bet their businesses on it today. That's going to change fast.

Q.4 What is your favourite new feature in Acrobat 4.0?

The ability to edit a bitmap in Photoshop and have it replaced in the PDF.

Q.5 Will InDesign, a.k.a "K2" affect prepress? If so, how and do you really think it will be the "Quark Killer" that it is hyped up to be?

Only time will tell. If Adobe delivers the feature set that they have announced in a clean and relatively bug-free initial release, it could be a very big product for them and for the industry in general.

InDesign has typographical enhancements that FINALLY bring desktop typography up to the level of traditional type quality. And the integrated nature of all of Adobe's products working together could play very well with Designers.

Finally, its ability to create high-quality PDF files directly, without the need for a PostScript intermediate step could propel InDesign to the forefront.

Q.6 Can you provide a roadmap to the future for Prepress and PDF? What sorts of technology should they be adopting? Are there any other technologies on the horizon?

PDF workflows depend greatly on PostScript Level 3 RIPs to drive the imaging devices. Companies that do not upgrade to PSL3 RIPs will have to continually work around issues, particularly in relation to spot color work. Also, the quality of PSL3 smooth shading, coupled with the enhanded productivity of direct PDF imaging should make the technolific shops much more productive, and therefore more desirable to their customers.

Stay tuned for more interviews with experts to find out why PDF is much more than just a file format

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