A PDF Progress Report –McIlroy

Pedal to the Metal

With most of the prepress systems we grew up on, you’d ordinarily have to really “push the pedal to the metal” to chug through the toughest files and produce predictably perfect results. With PDF workflows it’s the opposite. You grab the steering wheel tight, take your foot off the accelerator, and position it right next to the brake. Good PDF workflows take careful positioning and some restraint.

The Seybold organization has just released the results of an ambitious project to try and find the answers to some of the tough questions that surround making PDF workflows work. (I worked with Seybold ’till 2001—but not on this project.)

The in-depth “PDF Workflow Shootout & Usage Survey” ($450 from Seybold Publications) is an 84-page report that looks at two sides of the problem: what do publishers (PDF generators) want, and what do printers (PDF processors) want?

It’s perhaps easier to say what the companies that process PDF files for customers want—as described above, a system that can chug through the toughest files and produce predictably perfect results. Initially, Seybold set out to test 13 systems that could create “prepress-viable PDFs from four problematic application files.” Then they tested 18 systems that could output the final PDFs.

What to say about the results? Hmmm. I’m not quite sure. Oh, yes, here’s what I can say, “They’re interesting.” I’ve never been a big fan of contests, whether beauty contests or prepress system contests. The surrounding drama is always fun, but they’re always marred by the arbitrariness of the contest rules, and by the little things that invariably go wrong and skew the results, whether it’s just a contestant having a bad day, or a corrupt judge from a far-away place.

Top scores went to one of our industry’s largest suppliers, and to one of our smallest. Both Creo and OneVision have already sent out press releases trumpeting their victories, Creo, as vendor with the highest overall score (albeit for two different systems), and OneVision for the highest overall score on a single system. Congratulations to both.

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