Preflighting documents - checking them for production and pre-press errors before they go to a repro house or printers - is the desktop publishing equivalent of flossing teeth. Everyone know they should preflight, but few companies or individual designers have the discipline to preflight regularly. Up until now, most preflight solutions have been handled by software on the user's machine - either special preflighting software or preflighting built into the application. Now, Extensis has created an alternative to the usual preflight software with PrintReady - an online preflight service Although PrintReady ships in a box, the enclosed CD doesn't contain preflight software. Rather, it contains a plug-in which is used to link to the special PrintReady Web site. Documents are then checked into the Web site and examined online. Extensis is quick to assure you that your file doesn't actually get sent to the PrintReady server, rather the Web site examines the document on your own machine. (This distinction may not soothe many paranoids' fears, however.) The PrintReady service contains over 60 types of errors that could appear in documents. This covers a wide range of errors such as missing fonts, an RGB image or the wrong resolution, or boarders that are too thin. The user has the option to create their own profiles for the priority for each of the errors. An error may be set for no report, a yellow caution, a red-flag error, or a stop. PrintReady comes with a default profile for each of the documents it handles. However, some of the cautions, such as the one to avoid TIFF images, are much too strict for today's workflow. And other errors, such as two-colours that share the same screen angle used together in a multi-ink or overprinting, are completely overlooked by PrintReady. Any user should expect to spend some time adjusting the profile for their own workflow. Sadly, much of PrintReady's service feels stuck in a time warp. The service can handle only PDF, QuarkXPress 3 or 4 documents, and EPS files. There is no support for QuarkXPress 5, InDesign, PageMaker, or other formats supported by Markzware FlightCheck. The browser plug-in doesn?t work in OS X, although Extensis promises that a new plug-in is a top priority for new versions of the service. Also, the online help files show very old screen shots of QuarkXPress and Photoshop. For a service that is supposed to be new, this is disappointing.


The basic price for PrintReady is £239. This allows five users to access the PrintReady online service for as many documents as they wish. This is an excellent bargain, as the price is much less than a single-user copy of regular on-the-hard-drive preflight software from either Extensis or Markzware. PrintReady also comes in a Service Provider Edition that costs £1,399 for unlimited users for a limit of 12,000 document checks. There is also an Enterprise Edition for £6,999 that allows up to 30,000 document checks. These two plans also allow service bureaus and large companies to customize the PrintReady online pages with their own logos and company information. However, all three plans must be renewed after one year.

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