PDF can be the basis for an efficient workflow process, allowing service bureaus and print providers to produce quality Web and print output. Many other types of workflows are not as streamlined and efficient. Some of the common problems with basic workflows are:
- Files transported between platforms or files imported between programs may not work because the operating systems and programs are not compatible.
- Layouts may not print as planned because of unlinked graphics, incorrect or missing fonts, and colors not specified properly. The time spent on these problems adds to the cost of the job and contributes to an unproductive workflow.
- Many native application and PostScript file sizes are large, requiring more time to be transmitted from designers to print providers and more time for processing.
- There are many occasions in which it may be necessary to provide the same content for print, Web, and CD-ROM.
A routine of manual steps to fix the workflow problems is only a band-aid solution and is not as efficient as an electronic workflow in which the various steps all work together as a unit. A PDF workflow can help eliminate common problems and make the process more efficient. Listed below are steps used in a sample PDF workflow:
- A document is designed and created using various software applications.
- The PDF is created from the original application file.
- After the PDF has been created, Adobe Acrobat InProduction can be used to locate any errors or omissions. InProduction is a set of tools that work within Acrobat to process, edit, and manage PDF files.
- InProduction can be used to convert any RGB and LAB colors to CMYK.
- Spot colors are mapped.
- InProduction is used again to create color separations.
- Trim and bleed settings are set.
- Instructions for in-RIP trapping are set.
- Most changes can be made using Acrobat and InProduction. The changes can be made to the PDF file rather than having to open the file in the original application to perform the changes, which makes the process more efficient.
- The edited PDF is saved.
- Others can then view and approve the document.
- The PDF is sent through a PostScript device where it is processed and then output. It can be output for film, plates, conventional printing, or digital printers or presses.
- The PDF is archived and can be retrieved at any time for further editing and/or output.
Files can arrive to the print provider as print ready PDFs or the print provider may perform their own conversion of application files into PDF. When a print provider receives a native application or a PostScript file, the files are usually preflighted right away in order for the rest of the process to move smoothly. The PDF can then be created after the preflighting. The PDF files are created from the native application files or PostScript files. After the PDF is created it is the only file that you have to work on until the completion of the project, which makes the process much easier.
It is a good idea to test all aspects of the PDF workflow to insure that the process works smoothly with customers and internally. It is recommended that customers furnish native application files along with the PDF files for the first live jobs. This provides backup in the event that anything should go wrong and it also creates a comfort level while everyone adapts to the new PDF workflow. PDF and PostScript workflows can be operated along side each other during the transition to a PDF workflow.
After using the PDF workflow for the first few jobs, a baseline measurement of its effectiveness can be determined. The measurements can then be compared to the pre-PDF workflow in order to get an idea of the savings achieved with the PDF workflow.
Some of the areas in which comparisons can be made are:
- File sizes, including the application files, graphics and fonts.
- The time required for file transfer.
- Preflighting and preparing files for output including text editing, fonts, color correcting, trapping, graphics, bleeds, and trim marks.
- The time required for proofing.
- RIPing time required for proofs and output.
- The time and material for the completion of the job.
Monitoring the steps of the PDF workflow will help in finding areas where improvements can be made. The improvements should be made only after attaining accurate measurements of the original PDF workflow. Once the measurements have been made and the workflow improvements are in place, then further savings can be accurately measured.
Only a small amount of time saved one each job using the PDF workflow can provide big savings overall. Further savings can be attained if Adobe software products are used for creating the graphics and layout of the original document. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files can be converted to PDFs and inserted into InDesign layouts, which in turn can be saved as a PDF. The PDF can then be used for output.
Any type of print publishing can benefit from a PDF workflow. Print workflows already based on digital technology become even more streamlined with the use of PDF. Consider the following points:
- PDF is highly compressed enabling faster transmission of files without the need for a high-speed line.
- Annotations can be made within the PDF to allow for easier and more efficient proofing.
- PDF masters, which contain all of the document elements, improve efficiency because the Acrobat compression reduces the file size.
- PDFs are secure because different levels of security can be specified. A file can be saved with a specific password so that anyone attempting to tamper with the file and resave it must know the password in order to accomplish this.
- PDF provides a remedy for some of the problems associated with a production process based totally on PostScript.