When Adobe introduced Acrobat some years ago it was definitely pitched at the corporate productivity market. Acrobat’s Portable Document Format (PDF) files were designed to simplify the task of creating and viewing documents on different computers with different operating systems and different fonts installed.
Adobe’s original destination was that Land of Myth and Fable, the Paperless Office. More recently, Acrobat has found a healthy niche role in document distribution over the Internet. But somewhere in between, many operators in the pre-press industry saw a different role for PDF as a universal file format for managing workflow.
Although there are many alternative file formats (arguably far too many) that offer some advantages for repro and pre-press, all have as many drawbacks. And the same has been true of PDF. Although Adobe has developed the format with each release of Acrobat, it still doesn’t provide everything the pre-press professional requires. As a result, many smaller software companies have developed a range of add-on utilities to expand the abilities of Acrobat and the PDF format.
pdfOutput Pro, from German developer Callas Software, targets one particular drawback of PDF – the inability to output colour separations to the wide variety of PostScript devices available.
Some more recent PostScript RIPs offer a facility called In-RIP Separation (IRP), which does allow output of individual colour plates from PDF files, but these tend to be very high-end devices, and they require specific support in the RIP software.
With pdfOutput Pro installed within Acrobat Distiller, you can output colour seps on any PostScript device, including low-cost desktop laser printers, and older PostScript Level 1 RIPs.
The software also gives you one more handy trick: the ability to view colour seps on screen within a PDF file using the free Acrobat Viewer.
Additional features let you rotate, invert and otherwise manipulate PDF files, and lets you specify screen angles and dot shapes, crop marks and other details. All settings can be saved in custom ‘profiles’ that make it easy to handle individual jobs from different clients.
PDF offers pre-press operators one overwhelming advantage: compact and easy-to-handle files. Consider the example of a single one-page document in QuarkXPress. The Quark file itself may run to around 128K; with a 7.5MB image from Photoshop, a 200K EPS graphic, and embedded fonts the resulting package will reach more than 8MB of data to be moved from designer to repro house. Run it through Distiller and you end up with a PDF file optimized for 2,400dpi imagesetter output as small as 500K (and perhaps as low as 200K). That’s small enough to be emailed over
a 28.8Kbps modem, let alone an ISDN connection. It will also comfortably fit
on a single floppy disk.
With Quark’s recent adoption of the PDF format, and the latest developments
in Acrobat from Adobe, PDF looks likely to assume a major role in pre-press. While the last glitches are ironed out, utilities like pdfOutput Pro can make PDF a valuable tool for pre-press professionals today.