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Thu, Jun

This man wants you

What are your real-world wide-format production problems? The team developing new PDF standards want to know.

Martin Bailey, CTO of Global Graphics Software and the primary UK expert to the ISO committees developing the standards, outlines the changing situation.

The last few years have been pretty stable for PDF; PDF 1.7 was published in 2006, and the first ISO PDF standard (ISO 32000-1), published in 2010, was very similar to PDF 1.7. In the same way, PDF/X 4 and PDF/X 5, the most recent PDF/X standards, were both published in 2010, six years ago. But all that is about to change, with several new standards around PDF with relevance for print in the pipeline for publication in 2017 and 2018:

- In the middle of 2017 ISO 32000-2 will be published, defining PDF 2.0. Much of the new work in this version is related to tagging for content re-use and accessibility, but there are also several areas that affect print production. Among them are some changes to the rendering of PDF transparency, ways to include additional data about spot colors and about how color management should be applied.

By the end of 2017 you’ll probably need to be considering how to ensure that your workflow can handle PDF 2.0 files correctly.

- Over the last 15 years the various PDF/X standards have become widely adopted as the optimal way to enforce best practice in creating PDF files for production print. With PDF 2.0 about to come out, work has already started on a new conformance level, PDF/X-6, to make use of the new features available. It may be less relevant for wide-format, but there will also be a new PDF/VT standard based on PDF/X-6.

You may not need to adopt PDF/X-6 proactively, but you may find that some of your more sophisticated customers start to ask for it sometime in 2018.

- There’s work on a standard for capturing ‘processing steps’ in a PDF file, which will give a clear method of identifying specific areas or marks within each page of the file as having meanings associated with production.

To give an example use case, if you’re accepting PDF files that contain graphics and a cut line I’m going to guess that it’s sometimes a pain (and often a manual step) to identify how that cut line has been marked. Is it a spot colour called ‘cut’, or one called ‘CutContour’, or some other name? If you work with international customers it gets even harder because they may use some variant of the word ‘cut’ in another language.

Amongst other things this new standard will provide a way of stating which marks define a cut line in a way that doesn’t vary with local custom or language and can therefore be handled automatically in a print shop. Yes, it’ll take a few years before all your customers are using new enough software to tag their cut lines properly, but at least we’re moving in the right direction!

- And finally, one that I’m chairing, we have another new standard in development to allow data describing the designer or buyer’s intentions regarding the final printed piece to be encapsulated into the PDF file. In the wide-format space, for example, this will allow the buyer to note the media that it should be printed on in the file itself, enabling improved process checking to avoid printing it on the wrong media.

The information in the file won’t specify how you need to process the file, as a print service provider, but it will tell you what your workflow is intended to produce.

The first part of this standard will specify a core set of common product intents, but it’s already been suggested that we follow on with work specific to wide- format.

We’re always looking for input from people doing real production when we develop these standards. Somebody has to keep us honest, and make sure that we’re addressing the real problems that you face all the time. If you’re interested in being involved please drop me a line and I’ll be happy to put you in contact with the appropriate people: martin.bailey@globalgraphics.com