IntroductionWithout doubt, PDF is becoming the cross-platform, software-independent file format. Supported by Adobe InDesign and with import/export XTensions for QuarkXPress, PDFs have finally come of age courtesy of Acrobat 4.0. Within Acrobat, PostScript files can be distilled into PDFs and edited via the numerous third-party plug-ins, two of which are reviewed here. In fact, it’s the plug-in nature of Acrobat that’s allowing the program to grow, as more and more companies provide features that would otherwise require stand-alone applications.
Starting life as a suite of four pre-press tools for Acrobat 3.0, callas software’s pdfToolbox now offers six PDF utilities. The mainstay covers the most important shortcoming of Acrobat itself – the lack of preflighting. pdfInspektor offers this to a comprehensive level, yet it’s easy to use. A single window shows all relevant problems, such as RGB colours and images, missing fonts, and low-resolution images. A simple click on the problem highlights the fault on-screen. The resulting reports can then be saved and printed. Anyone creating adverts for transfer to repro for running-out to film – or placement on a QuarkXPress page – will appreciate pdfOutput. It creates EPS files for Mac or PC with all the fonts embedded. No more missing fonts or images – an almost error-free set-up. Even nicer, version 1.1 includes advanced scaling options to create EPS files to an exact shape and size.
pdfBatchMeister’s Distiller-assisting features and pdfCrop&Measure’s page cropping are largely redundant within Acrobat 4.0. However, the former can daisy-chain profiles to create, say, a high resolution PDF for computer-to-plate (CTP), and a low-resolution version for uploading to a Web site.
The final tools are new to version 1.1. pdfBatchProcess Pro sets up a sequence of actions involving pdfInspektor, pdfBatchMeister, pdfOutput and Quite a Box of Tricks. This allows control over the pre-press side of file handling – from automatic error finding and correction, through to final PDF output. Powerful stuff. And, pdfCropMarks’ instant addition of crop and registration marks rounds everything off nicely.
Quite a Box of Tricks
Quite a Box of Tricks is another suite of tools. It includes the most useful utility of the lot – RGB Gone! This colour converter changes RGB or spot-colour images/usage to CMYK with any necessary ICC profile applied – essential for press- or print-optimized PDFs.
It can also dispose of colour altogether, replacing it with the relevant greyscale shade, and convert all colour text to black – useful if the final output is to a mono laser printer.If you’re told to visit the shrink, don’t take it personally. This aptly-named function crunches PDF elements by re-sampling images, and includes a compression facility not found within Distiller, called JPEG extra. A six-page full-colour PDF, destined for a Web site, came down from 556KB to 312KB, a saving of over 40 per cent, with little appreciable change. Cleverly, screenshots can be left uncompressed. Although the manual doesn’t go into details as to how the software decides what’s a screenshot and what isn’t, it does work.
The Transform tool flips, scales and freely rotates PDFs – Acrobat 4.0 can only rotate by 90 degrees – but the real plus is its Thicken Lines feature. Hairlines don’t usually output correctly from an imagesetter, here you can set a minimum line-thickness.
As for the final two functions, Info gives you details on any PDF element you click on, while Fields grants control over form fields that can be removed or made part of the document – useful when text has been patched via a form.
Transverter Pro Plus
While not an Acrobat plug-in, Transverter Pro Plus offers a feature not found within Acrobat – the ability to RIP (convert to a bitmap) a PDF or PostScript Level 2 file, view it on screen and save it in various formats, including TIFF and EPS, at resolutions up to 4,000dpi.
In some respects, this is more important than preflighting, as it shows whether a repro house will be able to handle your files. Once rasterized, it’s obvious if any fonts are missing or corrupted, and the log shows warnings from any bad files. Any PostScript file can be passed through the program and converted into a placeable EPS, including the attaching of previews to Mac or PC-originated files.
I’ve stored a number of dodgy PostScript and PDF files over the past few years – such as embedded RGB images in PDFs, and PC EPSs that Illustrator can’t read and XPress won’t place – you know the kind. Transverter Pro Plus handled the lot. It can also save a file in Illustrator 3 format, with all embedded images linked, but removed. This is a good way to replace one or two images, or carry out some editing without having access to the originals.
One feature I’d like to see is the viewing of CMYK separations from a composite file. Knockout and overprint problems are a chief reason for film re-runs, and while an Acrobat plug-in, such as callas software’s pdfOutput Pro, can create PostScript separations from a PDF – which can then be viewed here – perhaps the facility should be offered as standard.