Crackerjack 3.1

If you work professionally with PDFs, you’ll recognize the following scenario. A client wants to send a booklet created in Microsoft PowerPoint, a source that can’t be handled. So the file arrives as a PDF, which is then found to have two spot colours. While these could be converted to four-colour process (CMYK), the spot colours can’t be output as separations – and the client’s printer is geared up to print two colours. Impasse. For PowerPoint you could also read Word, Excel and a host of other programs that are commonly used for producing adverts and company paraphernalia. Having full control over Acrobat 4’s output is very important – the Crackerjack 3.1 plug-in offers this. It provides professional tools that fall into two categories – preparing the file for output, and the actual output itself. For the former, Crackerjack offers an almost unbeatable set of utilities. For instance, many applications don’t allow you to output PDFs with a printer’s crop/registration marks and colour bars – Crackerjack can add these. Far worse, most RGB-based programs – including the three Microsoft ones mentioned above – create black as a combination of red, green and blue, commonly called ‘rich’ black. This separates into a blend of cyan, magenta, yellow and black – rather than pure black, resulting in poor reproduction of black text. Crackerjack’s "convert text to black" feature solves this problem. The preview window shows a feature’s result immediately. Switch portrait to landscape, and the preview switches as well, also showing crop/registration marks, paper size, scaling and mirror/negative print. Output options are comprehensive and depend on whether this is for a proofer or imagesetter, offering composite colour, or pre-separated output with automatic RGB conversion. It also supports In-RIP separation, where the RGB conversion can be changed. Take the rich-black problem above. Here you can edit the GCR (grey component replacement) much as you would within Photoshop. Just set black to maximum to solve the problem throughout the file. UCR (undercolour removal) can be handled in the same way. While QuarkXPress and InDesign can both import PDFs for placing, it’s often safer to work with an EPS. While Acrobat 4 can save a PDF as a single-file EPS, Crackerjack offers DCS 2.0 single and multiple files. And, as you might expect from a product such as this, you can select suitable screen frequencies for the current printer, and dot shapes can be altered – everything from the common round and diamond, through to more esoteric shapes such as cross and ellipse.

OUR VERDICT

Now including Pilot, an automation facility that uses "hot" folders, Crackerjack is a seriously powerful set of tools. Repro houses are finding that more and more files are arriving as PDFs – along with a brand new set of problems that come to light only when film has been run, if you’re lucky, or after printing – if you’re not. It’s pricey, and some of the simpler features could be covered by Quite Software’s RGB Gone! and callas software’s pdfOutput Pro. But, as an all-round throw-anything-at-me-and-I’ll-solve-it-for-you program, it has no equal. Try the demo on this month’s CD.

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