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PDF Proofing Comes of Age

(June 2007) posted on Thu Jun 07, 2007

The cost and scheduling benefits of adding PDF proofs to your production workflow.

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By Stephen Beals

Because PDF proofs can be delivered electronically (with all of the cost advantages I’ve previously stated), the total savings rises for each proofing cycle. In addition, new features built into Adobe Acrobat Professional make collaboration during these cycles much easier. The mark up capabilities also provide a clear electronic "paper trail," showing when, where, and by whom any changes are made. Adobe has even built in on-line real-time collaboration capabilities by making the old Macromedia Breeze product part of Acrobat Professional. Although there is some added cost to using the service, Adobe Connect allows browser-based interactive PDF notation and mark-up. Many high-end workflows offer similar capabilities for PDF-document collaboration.

One other hidden advantage to PDF proofing is the nearly universal acceptance of the PDF format. Adobe Reader is free, and with Acrobat 8 Professional, even users of the free version of Reader can use the collaboration tools. Although users cannot originate collaboration sessions with the free version, they are able to read and respond to notations made in the Professional version of the product.

The challenges you’ll face
PDF proofs are definitely not for everyone-at least not yet. Some serious color and file issues do exist. While most of the potential problems are relatively easy to deal with, a few-such as not being able to control whether your clients are calibrating their monitors-are more problematic.

The difficulty in editing PDF files may be one of the strongest reasons some print providers resist turning to PDF proofing. Programs such as Enfocus PitStop, Quite a Box of Tricks, Apago PDF Enhancer, and several products from Callas can aid you in editing PDF files. These products are great for correcting common file-creation errors such as unwanted hairline rules and rich blacks, converting RGB to CMYK, preserving and combining spot colors, preflighting, and more. But it’s still true that making a simple text correction in a PDF can be considerably more difficult than going back to the native program to make the fix.

Another problem with using PDF files as proofs is that many designers and print providers have a poor understanding of PDFfile creation. This is not all that different from the days when it was challenging to create clean PostScript. But current production realities have conspired to make everything just a bit more complicated.