|OK so I lied! In last month’s column on PDF I said that I would talk about JDF this month. But I’ve decided to put off JDF and talk about XMP instead. By now you’re probably thinking, “What difference does it make anyway? The whole thing sounds like a crossword puzzle from an alphabet factory!” Well, if you’re the professional I think you are, you want to know about the impact that XMP will have on your print projects. How do I know that? Because you’re a member of Print Buyers Online.com which means that you want to understand more so you can save time and money. And the way to cut cost and speed turnaround is by automating the workflow from file creation through print production and distribution. PDF, JDF, and XMP are important tools that can help take you in that direction. Besides, since XMP starts with your organization, you really do want to be in the know.
You already know about PDF (Portable Document Format), which is over 10 years old and is becoming the file format of choice with progressive printers and print buyers that want to move toward automating the workflow. While JDF, or Job Definition Format, offers great promise in taking the whole process to a spectacular new level it will not really begin to impact the print industry until mid-year 2004. So let’s talk about XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) which is here now and begins with the creative process.
XMP, like JDF, is based on XML, or Extensible Markup Language, a non-proprietary format that may be familiar to you as XML gains importance in many corporations. Basically, XMP is a labeling technology that allows you to embed data about a file, known as metadata, into the file itself. But XMP is not hard to work with or understand. In fact, the new Adobe Creative Suite has made XMP very “touchy-feely” and easy to use. So perhaps the best way to acquaint you with XMP is by taking a quick look at a key component of the new Adobe Creative Suite: Adobe Photoshop CS.
XMP descriptive data or information can be captured automatically or added manually. Automatic capture becomes immediately apparent when you open a picture you shot with a digital camera in Adobe Photoshop CS. Simply click File Info under the File heading and the XMP dialog box appears. By clicking Camera Data 1, you will see that your digital camera automatically recorded information about the photograph, such as the date and time the photo was taken, the camera type, lens settings, etc., and added it to the image file format (usually JPEG or RAW). I know I was amazed when I opened a digital picture I shot of my wife over two years ago and the time, date, lens setting, camera make, and so on appeared. Adobe Photoshop CS’s new File Browser is simply another way of quickly viewing XMP data. Data from a digital camera is only one way information is automatically recorded; however, it vividly illustrates that XMP data starts at the very beginning of the creative process. So now you know that it all begins in your bailiwick, not the print providers. But why is it important and what use is it?
When you clicked Camera Data 1 in the XMP dialog box, you probably noticed it was part of a list of other headings. If you click through these headings you can easily see that you can add descriptive metadata manually. In addition to carrying a wealth of descriptive information, an XMP-empowered file is searchable and can become a very quick, reliable method of asset management without the need for auxiliary software. For example, suppose you took 250 digital pictures in New York for multiple projects. Each JPEG file would automatically contain camera information. You could easily add New York as an XMP keyword in Adobe Photoshop CS and save the file as a Photoshop document. This would maintain all the original JPEG information as XMP data when the file format is changed. You can work on the various images and save variations in different formats and locations adding information as needed. A quick keyword search in Adobe Photoshop CS (or any XMP-enabled application) would locate all the New York images, both original and modified. Moreover, you can add many levels of descriptive information. Of course, adding additional definitive XMP data would further define the search.
Not only is the metadata information maintained if the original file is changed to another format such as a Photoshop document or a TIF but the metadata information is also maintained as the image moves throughout the creative process and is placed in a desktop publishing program like Adobe InDesign CS or any XMP compatible application or plug-in. These XMP labels provide the meaning that guides interoperability of applications and can be used to establish field values for databases. These attributes that can be very important to publishers who need to control an overwhelming amount of content.
Besides being maintained if the original file is changed to another format such as a Photoshop document or a TIF, metadata information is also sustained as the image moves throughout the creative process and is placed in a desktop publishing program like Adobe InDesign CS or any XMP-compatible application or plug-in. These XMP labels provide the meaning that guides interoperability of applications and can be used to establish field values for databases. These attributes can be very important to publishers who need to control an overwhelming amount of content.
Files that contain metadata can be distributed throughout a buying organization as self-contained files that have searchable and important information. Since the information is embedded in the file it cannot be lost (which can happen with a separate file). I am sure that corporate IT departments would quickly grasp the benefits of packaging searchable, descriptive data within the file. Most importantly, XMP relates to JDF. For example, a PDF file may contain several EPS or TIFF files but the XMP information provides key color information, which the JDF file can refer to as it automats the production process. As promised, I will cover JDF in a later column.
So now you can see that the letters XMP not only spell many benefits for your company, but are also a key component of the automated print workflow of the future. And now that you understand all this, (music rises) you can lead your company into the future