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Hamilton--The Great Schema of Things

August 2000
It is increasingly difficult to find major vendors that have not jumped onto the XML bandwagon. Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland have teamed up to develop the Job Definition Format (JDF) using XML, while CreoScitex and Quark are both building XML-based applications to drive their own systems. In the e-commerce space, printCafe, PrintTalk—a nascent group of firms—and others are building transaction and supply chain management systems based on eXtensible Markup Language.

Not to be left out, the on-demand group PODI has published a specification called PPML—Personalized Print Markup Language—based on this spec, and still another industry initiative, called the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP), is using XML constructs to enable remote printing using the Internet. If it sounds a little confusing, that's because, at this point, it is.

Even worse, I'm one of the people who's helping spread the messages. I believe that XML could be the Holy Grail of metadata. Whereas PostScript and HTML are descriptive languages that specify how a print or Web page looks in terms of things such as fonts, graphics and layout, XML goes deeper, as it provides the means of explaining what the text or graphic is about.

XML also provides for formatting through the eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) that can be used to drive layout/composition tools such as Quark-XPress, PageMill and other applications. Using XML and XSL, not only will we know what the content is, we'll know how it should look for each type of media in/on which it is published. Nirvana, here we come.

What's important about all these initiatives is that they are not necessarily competitive. For example, JDF is intended to define an architecture that will completely automate print production by enabling multiple parties and systems to communicate with one another using the Internet.

From the time the client requests a quote through the time the job leaves the shipping dock on pallets, JDF will integrate every step so that files never get to the RIP without having passed a preflight; each press always gets plates imposed specifically to suit its requirements; and bindery lines are set up and operated at maximum capacity.

Although its PCX is a proprietary effort, the printCafe group has such a large installed base in printers' business management systems that it cannot be ignored. If I understand things correctly, PCX will complement JDF in terms of providing workflow automation tools further upstream—content creation—and with transactions between printers and their suppliers. The word is that we will see a working iteration of PCX at Graph Expo next month.
 

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