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JDF BASICS -- It's Just the Ticket

April 2003
BY MARK SMITH


The devil is in the details, as the saying goes. Even simple tasks can require complex explanations in order to eliminate ambiguity and minimize the chances for confusion.

There's an exercise often used in writing classes that provides an easy, and very relatable, way for anyone to get a sense of the challenge. Using only words, try stepping another person through the process of tying a shoe. No hand gestures or demonstrations of any type are allowed. The precise directions, and not their intent, must be closely followed by the shoe tier.

With some effort, most people eventually can get a subject to tie a sloppy bow. The results certainly will not be on a par with a knot they simply tied themselves, and the instruction method takes far longer.

Now imagine trying to clearly define every aspect of print production, from job submission and preflight to packaging and shipment. Such is the task undertaken by the Job Definition Format (JDF) development effort. The most recent version of the specification and supporting documentation spans a very hefty 546 pages.

A Cure for Insomniacs?

Even those responsible for developing the spec recognize it's a tough read. Martin Bailey currently is serving as CEO of CIP4 (the International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress), which is the standards body behind JDF. In writing about the specification, he noted that reading the "Preface & User Overview" probably would provide a sufficient grounding in JDF for any graphic arts professional not involved in programming.

Along with its length, part of what makes the specification a tough read is learning the lingo. The text is peppered with its share of acronyms. Even so, there are parts of the document beyond the "Preface & User Overview" that also deserve attention.

Using the specification's own words is probably the best way to explain what it is:

In the next few years it is our belief that this specification will positively effect everyone involved in the creation and production of printing; regardless of form (offset, digital, and so on) or function (direct mail, publication, packaging, and so on). Furthermore, JDF will be of value to companies both large and small. Some of the benefits JDF may provide include:

** A common language for describing a print job across enterprises, departments, and systems.

** A tool for verifying the accuracy and completeness of job tools.
 

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