PDF Master: David van Driessche talks with Planet PDF's Karl De Abrew
Newly appointed Enfocus Software CEO says key is listening to its graphics arts customers
14 April 2003
Editor's Note: As part of our ongoing reflection on the June 1993 introduction of Adobe Acrobat and PDF by Adobe Systems, Planet PDF CEO Karl De Abrew is conducting a series of brief "Masters of the PDF Universe" profiles with key members of the Planet PDF community. Today Karl talks with David van Driessche of Enfocus Software, who recently was tabbed to become the company's CEO, replacing the departing Peter Camps. While the role may be new, van Driessche has been with Enfocus from its earliest days -- in fact, he's employee Number One, according to recent company communications. Accordingly, he's been involved in the various PDF-related ventures for which Enfocus has become known and respected -- for its prepress-oriented products such as Pitstop Pro, for its Certified PDF Workflow developments and tools, and for its ongoing support for industry standards in the form of the Ghent PDF Workgroup. The company plans to introduce a number of new and enhanced products and solutions this year.
Karl De Abrew: David, you've recently been appointed CEO of Enfocus Software, a company that many would argue is one of the most well-known and successful companies centered on PDF outside Adobe Systems. When and why did you first get involved with Acrobat/PDF?
David van Driessche: "It feels like forever, but I started working with PDF for our first version of Enfocus PitStop back in 1997. At that time, Enfocus was a four-person company. PitStop was a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat 3.0 and quite different from the product that we sell today. The first version of Pitstop, although very basic, was an amazing proof-of-concept of what one could do with PDF and Acrobat!
De Abrew: Looking ahead for Enfocus Software, in your new role as CEO, what would be the three main personal goals you have for the company in the immediate future?
van Driessche: "Enfocus Software has been growing rapidly over the last couple of years and I want to make sure that we remain focused during our growth. I believe it is imperative that we as a company remember that we got to where we are now by listening to our customers and providing them with simple and efficient tools. That is a focus I've always shared with Peter (Peter Camps, former CEO)."
"At the same time the main challenge for myself is to make sure that we keep doing the right things for the long-term. While I've been deeply involved with Enfocus' vision in the past, it is something I'll have to invest in personally.
And last but not least, there is no way we are going to stop making amazing products!"
De Abrew: Briefly describe the most significant change in the development or use of the technology, since you first began working with Acrobat/PDF, and why do you consider it significant?
van Driessche: "When I started working with PDF and Acrobat, the products we made were used by single users on their own computers. They were good products for preflighting and PDF editing and were well-received by the graphic arts community, but the missing piece was efficient coordination of multiple user workflows.
I believe that is rapidly changing. Optimizing the way in which one single user works is just not good enough any more, one needs a way to optimize the whole chain of people working together.
Certified PDF has been our first very important step in that direction. It has allowed people to (finally) start bringing preflight to the start of the workflow, right where the PDF file is created. And it allows people to know what has happened with a file and how good it is at any point in their workflow. It takes away the guessing game.
But Certified PDF was only the first step, the fundamental vision behind it is that software should not stand by itself, it should be intelligent enough to know what happens further down the workflow and handle accordingly."
De Abrew: Acrobat and PDF are now used in so many industries and in so many ways, do you see new areas that haven't perhaps been tapped much yet?
van Driessche: "I'm sure there are plenty of areas that have not been touched at all, but Enfocus has always had a focus on the graphic arts market and that is still where we believe our strengths lie.
Even in that one market segment there are plenty of opportunities to be tackled, and that is exactly what we will be doing during the next couple of years."
De Abrew: Acrobat has grown into a large, multi-function tool for use in so many areas -- including document management, presentations, collaboration, forms and prepress -- and it can be intimidating for new users. Is there a need for separating out this functionality to make it easier to use.
van Driessche: "We have the good fortune that most of our users are graphic arts professionals. They are the ones who want and need all of these features in Adobe Acrobat and all of the extra tools we provide.
At the same time we have always tried to make our products as simple as possible, and keeping the right balance between capabilities and complexity is an exercise every company has to do."
De Abrew: Pondering the future of Acrobat and/or PDF, what most excites you about the next few years?
van Driessche: "In a way, my excitement stems from the past. In '97 what we did with PDF was so very limited that it was hard to imagine then that things would evolve so fast, even though we had that dream.
Right now the adoption of PDF is really taking off and in a way I feel this is the time to do the 'fun' stuff. PDF itself and the basic tools are well accepted and their use continues to spread.
But more and more it becomes obvious that simple preflight is not enough. And I believe this is the right time to go that extra step."
De Abrew: Briefly describe a common misconception about or frequent problem you've seen with Acrobat/PDF that you'd like to try to clarify for others and/or provide a tip to address.
van Driessche: "An easy question in my mind: The major problem I keep encountering is that people assume PDF and a PDF workflow will solve all their problems overnight.
That is, of course, not true. People need and will continue to need a lot of support and tools to make their PDF dream come true. Which is why sites such as Planet PDF are so indispensable -- the one thing people need more than anything else regarding PDF at this time is good, accurate information."