Crackerjack 4

Walk into any professional publisher or repro house, and you’ll hear the phrase ‘PDF workflow’. Adobe’s Portable Document Format has come of age, as has its Acrobat package, now up to version 5.0.5. But a PDF-workflow is a complicated one: DTP-created files are saved or converted to a PDF. This is then used to create the files for use with an imagesetter, platemaker, digital press, and the like. Professional tools are required for a number of areas – including colour correction. That’s where Crackerjack, an Acrobat plug-in, comes into the picture. Crackerjack first prepares a PDF for output. It can add printer’s crop and registration marks, plus colour bars, and file/plate names – immediately showing the results in a preview window. Programs that work in RGB (such as Microsoft Word) or convert black to a four-colour equivalent (such as Photoshop with certain settings) can end-up with black text made up from CMYK components. Such a colour, usually referred to as ‘rich black’, leads to illegible text if the film fit, or registration, is slightly out. Crackerjack’s ‘convert text to black’ feature handles this, and also offers ‘black overprint’ to correct any text that has been set to knockout through a colour panel. It can even selectively re-map spot colours – helpful when trying to reduce the number of inks being used, or for getting rid of duplicate spot-colours with different names. Two new features extend the correction functions. There’s an embedded-font fixer that automatically checks for non-embedded fonts, and includes them if available. And RGB-to-CMYK conversion has been enhanced to include the use of ICC (International Colour Consortium) profiles and UCR (under-colour removal)/GCR (grey-component replacement) curves, so allowing Once all corrections have been made, Crackerjack offers a comprehensive list of output-options including resolution, page-to-media and image-to-media offsets, scaling, mirror/negative print, screening, and dot shape/gain compensation. It can create separations for an imagesetter’s built-in in-RIP trapping, or save as either a composite or pre-separated PostScript file. There’s even support for PostScript 3 features such as duotones and spot-colour gradients. To take the guesswork out of the final result, Crackerjack now sports a print-preview that shows individual separations in a similar way to Adobe’s InProduction

OUR VERDICT

Crackerjack 4 takes the sting out of preparing PDFs for professional output. Including its Pilot ‘hot folder’ automation, it’s a doddle to use. and is a substantial upgrade. If you want only certain features, such as PDF-to-EPS output or RGB-to-CMYK conversion, there are cheaper alternatives. But as an integral part of a PDF workflow system, Crackerjack 4 offers a comprehensive set of features. There’s a demo on this month’s cover CD – so you can try it out for yourself.

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