By Cassandra Balentine
Print service providers (PSPs) often deal with “print-ready” files that don’t meet specific standards. Instead of pushing back to the client, Portable Document Format (PDF) editing tools enable changes in preflight. These capabilities are found in dedicated design software, standalone PDF editors, and RIP/workflow solutions. Because print production is nearly completely PDF based, Piet De Pauw, head of marketing, Enfocus, an Esko Company, says a PDF editing tool is essential to job quality, accuracy, and customer confidence.
“PDF is the standard for print-shop delivery. Editing a customer’s file is a fact of life,” adds Mary Gay Marchese, public relations, Markzware Inc. “Some printers request PDFs based on preflight reports. Most resort to PDF editing. The type of edits needed dictate the tool.”
Above: PDFMarkz by Markzware offers standalone conversion of complete PDFs into desktop publishing file types.
PDF editing tools have been available for some time and many print providers already utilize them. As PDF is continually accepted as the defacto file standard for print delivery, PDF editing tools have increased in demand and continue to do so.
“PDF editing is increasingly important in print production. Just considering the customization and range of products PSPs are supporting via web to print (W2P) systems puts PDF editing in the forefront,” shares De Pauw.
Marchese points out that many times source files are lost and all that is left is “that PDF.” In this situation it is essential to be able to make substantial edits without a native file.
Jonathan Rogers, international marketing manager, Onyx Graphics, Inc., adds that PSPs are under increasing pressure to reduce turnaround times while also manage overhead costs. “This has become increasingly important over the past 18 months and is likely to continue. By allowing fast, easy ways to edit PDF files, PSPs can keep designers and other staff focused on more important tasks while also keeping to delivery deadlines.”
Once a PDF is created, designers and prepress professionals need to be able to fix a broad array of possible errors, from bleed issues to crop marks and font drops.
“Design programs, while excellent for design, are tedious for fast file editing for finishing marks. By providing prepress the ability to quickly add bleed, grommets, and other finishing marks for output such as banners, it drastically reduces the time needed to prepare a file for print production,” suggests Rogers.
De Pauw says a PDF editor of any value to prepress should handle all of those issues. For example, Enfocus PitStop Pro and PitStop Server can fix bleed issues, including along a vector die line. It checks for and embeds missing fonts, resizes documents, and can add marks. The latest version of PitStop imposes PDF files as printer or reader spreads as well as provides wide format specific features.
Marchese says Markzware PDFMarkz allows for a PDF to be re-generated, after edits, in a native desktop publishing application like Adobe InDesign. Then the prepress operator can use the proper PDF export settings and get a PDF set up with all of the proper specifications, such as bleed, no missing fonts, crop marks, and registration marks.
PDF Editing Roles
There are many options for PDF editing. These capabilities are integrated into RIPs and workflow tools, as well as included with design software or through a standalone solution designed solely for the purpose of PDF editing.
De Pauw feels that standalone PDF editing is the most versatile way to apply that functionality in print production. “The advantage is that editing and correction can performed at any point in the print production process.”
However, the downside of a specific PDF editor is that they typically cannot be integrated or automated without something like an SDK or API. “This is where PitStop Server comes into the mix, because it uses the same preflight profiles and action lists that PitStop Pro uses but provides the automation at any point in a workflow,” explains De Pauw.
Speaking just as a software vendor for digital inkjet wide format print, Rogers says the biggest advantages for having PDF editing capabilities integrated into RIP software include speed, ease of use, and no loss of data. “These all culminate into a PSP’s ability to reduce print production time and provide faster turnaround times for their customers,” suggests Rogers.
An integrated workflow with PDF editing capabilities allows users to quickly add things like finishing marks in a fraction of the time needed in design programs; automatically edit files for print production, reducing manual errors and reducing file preparation time; edit without design knowledge; and reduce the risk of losing file changes.
Marchese believes that it’s all about keeping the PDFs flowing and not erroring out and stopping the workflow dead in its tracks.
Since there are many options for PDF editing, PSPs should choose a solution or solutions based on the extent of capabilities required.
Marchese feels that print providers really should have several PDF editing solutions. “Editing PDFs in Adobe Acrobat or with plug-ins to Acrobat is fine for the quick fix, here or there. However, there are also times when a client is effectively asking for a new brochure or the book layout completely changed and all they delivered was ‘that PDF.’ This is where Markzware’s PDFMarkz is valuable for prepress operators that also have desktop publishing skills or designers on staff to help make proper, professional design changes.”
Rogers says in most instances, PDF editing capabilities contained within the RIP or print workflow solution offer a fast, simple way to prepare files for print production without relying on prepress designers or requiring extensive training.
“In some instances, PSPs may still want to use additional products that complement their existing print production workflows. What works for one business, however, may not suit another,” he offers, suggesting that PSPs first ask themselves what they need in terms of PDF editing to help improve the business or what production bottlenecks will be helped by introducing additional solutions.
De Pauw would almost always exclusively choose a standalone PDF editor, depending on the specific workflow scenario, of course. “The flexibility of where a manual PDF editor can be used is in itself the advantage. The need for another editor at the RIP, for example, would only be needed if it were impossible to manually extract a PDF to make changes.”
On the Market
As we’ve discussed, there are many ways to incorporate PDF editing within the print production workflow. Here we highlight standalone and workflow tools that offer these capabilities.
Enfocus develops PitStop Pro and PitStop Server for PDF editing. PitStop Pro is an Adobe Acrobat plug-in that provides an extensive set of PDF quality and editing tools. PitStop Server automates the PDF workflow process.
According to De Pauw, PitStop Pro provides PDF editing capabilities giving users the ability to make granular changes to PDF file content. Image editing, vector editing, color changes, and font manipulation are all possible. Preflight profiles make elaborate PDF quality control simple. Action lists correct and edit PDF files with the click of a button. PitStop Server automates all of that including file retrieval, routing, and archiving. Enfocus offers an SDK for PitStop used by other solution providers in the industry. PitStop Server can provide connectivity to management information systems, W2P, and other solutions like imposition software and digital front ends.
Esko offers ArtPro+, which allows prepress teams to work directly on PDF files with a complete set of editing features. Its latest release features a new variable data printing (VDP) module. Frank Woltering, product manager, graphic editing, Esko, says that ArtPro+ is a native PDF editor for the packaging prepress process. It enables operators to reduce unintentional errors when editing and to automate repeating tasks without the need for any special programming skills.
“ArtPro+ contains all the functionality needed to go from customer file to a print-ready file in just a few clicks and without leaving the application. Images, text, and barcodes can be made variable in size, layout, and color by reading a record from a CSV database. The rule-based validation capabilities not only check the database but also preflight the final output and report on potential printing issues before going to press,” shares Woltering. “The VDP module allows data to be expanded directly into a step-and-repeat template resulting in a fully stepped and repeated layout file ready to print.”
Markzware offers a PDF Editing tool called PDFMarkz. It is a standalone application that will preview and give file information on a PDF. From there, users can open the PDF in the desktop publishing application of their choice, like Adobe InDesign, Affinity Publisher, or QuarkXPress.
Marchese says PDFMarkz is unique because it offers standalone conversion of complete PDFs into desktop publishing file types. This allows creative people more on the design side of the workflow to do edits in tools that they have and understand. Then they can re-export a new, fresh PDF once the edits are done.
PDFMarkz is Apple scriptable and allows for integration in various workflows.
Onyx Graphics is a software solutions provider to the digital inkjet wide format print industry. Its core products are RIP and print workflow software for end-to-end print production and includes the ability to edit PDFs in preparation for print through scaling page size and rotation; tiling; color correction; adding finishing marks such as bleed, grommets, and sewing marks; layout; resolution; cropping; job ticket information; production of print labels; and cut path recognition from source files. Each of these options can be automated to reduce file preparation time and reduce the likelihood of manual errors. In addition, a nesting solution works independently of ONYX software and is compatible with any existing RIP environment.
“Speaking as a software vendor for wide format printing, a key benefit of ONYX software in general is ease of use and no loss of print file data,” offers Rogers. PSPs are able to utilize a single viewport to open, edit, print, and cut files while also adjusting for color management across different printers, cutters, media, and ink types. This means data is not lost through converting the print file from one system to another before printing, ensuring print buyers receive the final product they expect.
PDFs are widely accepted as the standard for print production. However, when preflighting a document for press, prepress operators often uncover issues that can easily be fixed without going back to the client and stopping the workflow. There are several solutions for PDF editing, each with their own benefits and role in the production process.
Sep2021, Digital Output