PDF Generators Weigh In --McIlroy
At the same time, PDF-X/1a, the most clearly defined version of the PDF format, is employed by only a small minority of users. Enfocus' Certified PDF, a near-fool-proof PDF workflow, does not merit a mention.
Because prepress workflows are still error-prone (in both perception and in fact), both PDF generators and PDF receivers push to have original application files submitted along with the PDFs, in roughly 40 percent of cases. There's a widely-held view that PDFs are tough to edit. Certainly Acrobat continues to provide only minimal editing tools; while PDF editing software like Enfocus PitStop is too complex for the average, unskilled user.
PDF has found a particularly successful niche as a tool for soft proofing—it's used this way in over half of print jobs. Of course there are lots of problems using PDFs this way, both because of missing fonts and colors that don't match. And the production challenges with PDF files go beyond soft proofing. Problems frequently encountered include images missing or with insufficient resolution, and incorrect bleed or trim information (all problems that originate in the native application file).
This, again, is primarily an issue about training. While most PDF file receivers (printers and prepress shops) report that they offer training, less than half of PDF generators think they receive any training at all. (I've seen this problem since the dawn of desktop publishing. Crisis-based phone support is not the same thing as outbound training; most printers haven't a clue what really training their customers should mean.) The one-third of users who report they have received training employ mostly "online or self-paced training" (and we know how effective that is!)
Interestingly one of the key reasons for using PDF is for its non-print applications. Nearly half of the files submitted are intended for CD-ROM or Web publication, usually in combination with print. More than 60 percent of PDF file generators also repurpose PDF files to the Web. Some 40 percent plan to use their PDF files for searchable archives, and 30 percent expect their use of PDF to reduce their overall print volume.