Adobe--Life in the PDF Lane
With PostScript 3, PDF and PostScript Extreme delivering on their promises to facilitate faster print production, visionaries at Adobe are casting their view to PDF refinements—and uncovering the next great print production performer.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
The introduction of PostScript placed Adobe Systems at the center of a growing web of desktop publishing solution providers. With the launch of Adobe's PostScript Extreme architecture and the rise of PDF, now, more than ever, Adobe is standing at center stage.
What are Adobe's star qualities?
- Originally designed to demonstrate that PostScript could be imaged at or above engine speeds, Adobe PostScript Extreme expanded its high-volume printing capabilities in 1996 to enable distributed rendering across multiple CPUs.
- In September 1998, Adobe launched Adobe PostScript Extreme for the graphic arts, adding workflow automation of prepress tasks to its earlier version.
- Integral to the Adobe PostScript Extreme architecture is the concept of separating job control from job content. The Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF) is embedded in the PDF file, allowing operators to suspend, correct and rerun a page without having to rework the entire job.
For insight into the future of production printing processes, Printing Impressions recently asked Adobe's Tricia Gellman, product marketing manager, and Jess Walker, product manager, to give an overview of the projects they have been refining. Guess what? There's a whole lot more than just PDF going on inside of Adobe. See for yourself. The following conversation between Printing Impressions and Adobe's technologists touches on more than PDF.
PI: This past year we saw the introduction of Adobe Extreme for the GA and production printer. What exactly is Adobe Extreme?
Adobe's Gellman: "Adobe Extreme is an integrated, flexible printing architecture developed to streamline prepress and production workflows. In developing Extreme, we worked from the position that prepress houses have a single location where jobs enter the production cycle. At that point, a job ticket is attached so that all prepress tasks can be automated based on the job ticket information.
"Tasks such as trapping, imposition and color correction can all be handled by the PJTF and, since the files are translated into Adobe PDF, the file can easily be based from one task to another.
"Extreme supports not only the workflow leading up to rendering, but also a very sophisticated way to render files, allowing for the distribution of multiple RIPs to attain or beat engine speeds. All of this is integrated so the beginning of the system knows what is happening on the back end, creating a very efficient and productive workflow."
PI: What is Adobe doing to help users increase productivity with their production printing jobs?
Adobe's Walker: "When looking at a recent GATF research study, we saw that 57 percent of all jobs submitted to service providers and prepress production facilities fail when attempting to output to film, proof or plate. This is a stunning statistic that shows there is much room for improvement in our present workflows. Some of the reasons for these failures are missing files, fonts, graphics and images; incompatible native applications; cross-platform issues; etc.
"With Adobe Extreme, we have introduced PDF as the internal file format, thus obviating many of the file failure concerns and increasing reliability, as all graphics, fonts and images are now in one object-based file that has already been interpreted by an Adobe PostScript interpreter. Users of PDF in digital printing find they can streamline operations, improve responsiveness to customer demands and cut costs because of the efficiencies of its use as a common file format.
"We introduced the Adobe Portable Job Ticket as a flexible way to access and control process information, such as imposition templates or trapping information, which enables users to change information up to the last minute when the job ticket and the PDF are rendered to the marking engine. Also, with the latest version of PDF, we will increase the capabilities of PDF within a system such as Extreme which, among many other things, allows users to hold color intentions in the file."
PI: What does this mean to the future of Adobe's product development?
Adobe's Gellman: "Our goal at Adobe is to build products that provide the most competitive and cost-effective solutions to help our customers run their businesses profitably. This is true from the creative all the way through to the printer.
"We accomplish that by listening to the needs of our customers. The scalability of the PostScript language allows us to deliver a full range of reliable printing products from the desktop all the way up to the high-end printing equipment.
"By using products based on the Adobe imaging model, customers are guaranteed a level of reliability and consistency in all aspects of their workflows. It is our goal to deliver products that work well together, thereby helping customers increase their productivity and efficiency."
PI: What is going on with Adobe PostScript 3, now that there is the Extreme architecture?
Adobe's Walker: "Adobe PostScript 3 is still a major segment of Adobe's printing business, and we envision it to continue that way through 1999. Over the past year, we have seen several Adobe PostScript 3 products come to market and, given that Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop and the next version of PDF all use PostScript 3 operators, we expect the demand for Adobe PostScript 3 printing products to continue in 1999.
"As Adobe PostScript 3 RIPs can be a key component in an Extreme system, our OEMs are able to offer flexible systems to their customers. For example, a customer who has invested in a RIP may upgrade and invest in a complete workflow system to front end their RIP. This is part of the flexibility that Extreme offers, and it is up to our OEM partners to determine the delivery.
"In 1999, we also anticipate Adobe PostScript 3 RIPs being available to drive more devices, both at the low and high end of the spectrum, making reliable printing accessible to more people in more places during the creation through to production printing workflow."
PI: What's new with PDF?
Adobe's Gellman: "Feedback from customers regarding workflows, color management and other issues have influenced our work on the latest version of PDF.
"Adobe recently revised the PDF language specification to allow for several new capabilities that facilitate a digital workflow in the print production world. The new features address many of the biggest challenges our customers face in using PDF within the print environment. Some of our customers have expressed concern that ICC workflows are not possible with the current version of PDF, version 1.2, but are with native application workflows, thus limiting the type of work they can do using PDF.
"Also, PDF 1.2 cannot handle objects defined through PostScript 3 operators, which are used in applications such as Illustrator 8.0 and PhotoShop 5.0. Therefore, the next version of PDF will address these challenges."
PI: Is the Adobe Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF) being used today and, if so, where?
Adobe's Walker: "The PJTF can be found in products from Agfa and EFI, which are using it to carry imposition data to increase flexibility in job handling and to enable workflow automation. Also, the PJTF has just been approved by the CIP3 committee as a way to carry and transport CIP3 data from the RIP to the printing device. So we expect to see it implemented in systems using PJTF for CIP3 data sometime soon."
PI: What is the biggest challenge to developing a completely integrated printing workflow?
Adobe's Gellman: "As with any product or service, the biggest challenge is in creating a solution that can be implemented immediately within a complex infrastructure of native applications and equipment.
"Over the past few years, Adobe has continually tackled the most substantial issues facing printers and developed several innovative solutions. Critical to that success has been the tremendous interactive relationships we have with OEM partners and end-users.
"Our partners and customers provide key insight into the challenges they deal with every day. Recent milestones include the development of Adobe PostScript 3, Adobe PostScript Extreme and PDF. As our customers' businesses evolve, so do ours. By the time our competition unveils its latest products, we are already eight to 10 months into the development of the next solution."
Adobe PostScript Extreme
Since it's introduction in 1984, the Adobe PostScript language has not only been the mainstay of desktop publishing in the commercial printing industry—it has become the very standard for digital commercial graphic arts production as well.
Welcome PostScript Extreme.
Adobe PostScript Extreme technology is an architecture of related modules whose functionality optimizes throughput for commercial printing, Extreme makes use of three of Adobe's complementary core technologies: Adobe PostScript 3 interpreters, Portable Document Format (PDF) and Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF).
At present, there are two variants of Extreme—Extreme for graphic arts and production printing, and Extreme for high volume printing. The ultimate goal of both versions is to provide a robust job management environment for commercial printing.
Extreme process modules are known as Job Ticket Processors (JTP). JTPs get information from a job ticket, which is an extended set of processing information about a PDF document, written in PJTF, which is based on the PDF language.
A job ticket may be included in a PDF document or exist as a separate entity. A PDF document and its associated job ticket contain essentially all the information (content, graphics, production specs) required for viewing, processing and outputting a file in a self-contained package. Because a PDF document contains this key information, it can be thought of as a "digital master"—a complete and reliable description of a file's content and processing requirements.
For more information on Adobe's Extreme architecture and a comprehensive backgrounder on PDF files, consult www.adobe.com on the Internet.