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The Shakeout in 2006

(January 2006) posted on Thu Jan 05, 2006

Update your printers and software, because the digital industry industry is constantly changing.

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By Stephen Beals

Files: bigger, less-professional, more PDFs

You probably have already had a glimpse of some of the incoming-
file trends you're sure to see more of this coming year. Here's
what I believe you'll find"?and have to deal with"?in 2006:

  • Files are bigger. Remember when digital files arrived on
    floppy disks? Today, many files won't fit on a 100-MB Zip disk
    (remember those?). Raise your hand if you are starting to get
    files on UsB flash drives. My company receives the vast majority
    of its jobs on CD and some on DVD. I admit to a slight panic
    flutter when a job arrives on a half-dozen CDs, but this isn't

  • Transparency is the "in" thing. It may still choke your RIP to
    get multiple-layer Photoshop files from your customer, but you
    will probably need to figure out workarounds because designers
    simply love to play with transparency. It's another reason
    you need the latest-and-greatest hardware backing up the latest-
    and-greatest software.

  • Who's creating these files? You've no doubt seen a growth
    in the number of nonprofessionals involved in creating files
    intended for professional output. You're likely receiving files
    created in Word, PowerPoint, and Publisher"?and all by people
    who have no idea what it means to embed fonts, convert color
    space to CMYK, or collect for output. They have no idea what the
    terms "color management," "overprint," or "trap" mean, but they
    love to play with their software controls for all of these file attributes.
    If these folks are not already making your life miserable,
    they will be.

  • PDF is taking root. Customers providing PDF files could be
    a good thing, but it probably won't be until designers figure out
    how to create printable PDF files. Given the penchant for transparency
    and the increasing lack of appropriate training for file
    creators, PDF is not yet the holy grail that had been hoped for.
    But standards committees such as the Ghent PDF Workgroup
    ( and new Acrobat features are
    helping, and 2006 could be a year when designers begin getting
    the PDF training that will help make our lives easier.

    Print providers can help themselves by providing their own
    training to customers, and promoting products such as Enfocus
    Instant PDF and PDF Create ( and Apago
    PDF Enhancer ( It will also pay to continue
    training your own staff"?this is no time to be stuck with old
    technology or untrained technicians.

    What doesn't kill us"?

    As negative as all of this may sound, files and design will
    improve after customers get over the novelty of transparency
    and receive proper training. Improvement will also come
    once the "business-software" file creators get hit with enough
    rework charges to realize they should be using software that's
    actually designed for print (or at least learn how to make their
    files more print friendly).

    The year 2006 is going to be a shake-out period, and it won't
    all be pleasant. But most of us will survive, and those who do
    will be better for the experience.

    Stephen Beals (, in prepress production
    for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
    with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.