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Printing Impressions-May 2002 Column
Getting on the PDF Transit Bandwagon

DATELINE-MONDAY, March 25, 2002, VUE/Point conference, Washington, DC. I always wanted to do that; it sounds so important. I feel like a crack AP reporter breaking a red-hot story. You probably think the time I spent attending the VUE/Point conference went to my head.

Perhaps, but you have to admit it added a little drama to this month's column. And adding some drama was my intention because I believe that Adobe's PDF Transit is going to be a key component of tomorrow's print shop, and tomorrow's print shop is already here. So, for me, this was a must write and, for all of you, I hope it's a must read.

PDF Transit has been in the trade press for a few months, so many of you might have already heard or read about it-so much for breaking news. But I wish all of you could have been at VUE/Point to hear Rebecca Aquino, who presented a very clear, informative picture of the product. I was even luckier because I had a subsequent conversation with both Aquino and Robin Tobin.

Aquino is Adobe's senior product manager for PDF Transit and Tobin is manager of marketing for the Internet Printing Div. at Adobe Systems. Both of them possess a great deal of energy and enthusiasm.

All of this brought a smile to my face because I have been predicting a product like PDF Transit for quite some time, and now it's becoming a reality. In fact, I have known Rebecca for several years and we have talked about this concept in the past. But as much as I would like to pat myself on the back-if you think about it-PDF Transit is really a natural for both Adobe and the industry, and it had to happen. As I said, I believe PDF Transit will become a necessity for the way printers conduct business in the near future.

A number of factors make up the compelling story for PDF Transit. First, printers have become victims of clients taking over more and more of what we used to do. The profits are gone, but the blame isn't. The customer sets the type, does the color separations, assembles the page and then sends the printer a bad file, which becomes the printer's problem.

For years we've heard that a PDF workflow was eventually going to be the answer. But it was only the answer for printers with contract clients or repetitive jobs, which enabled client education so that the distilling process was controlled by the printer. For the rest of us, a PDF still meant bad files that were harder to fix. Plus, more and more, the quick turnaround and lower pricing of on-demand printing exacerbates the problem.

And, of course, there's the rapid growth of Internet-based jobs that promises to be the dominant client submission method in the very near future. All this is leading to a rapid, automated workflow that could come to a screeching, expensive halt with bad files or very unhappy clients who received unexpected results.

PDF Transit solves these problems very nicely because you, the printer, have absolute control over the way the PDF is distilled by your client. In fact, the PDF can only be distilled one way-your way-because the client gets the custom-packaged PDF maker from your Web server.

In essence, PDF Transit is a PDF workflow that works; the PDF creation component in PDF Transit is the same core distiller software Acrobat uses to produce an Adobe PDF. The key difference is that you customize the PDF Transit client software and distribute it to your customers with your branding and distiller job options. Let's take a look at how all of this happens.

As the printer, you install PDF Transit on your Web server. The exact pricing method is yet to be decided by Adobe, but should be announced soon. However, in talking with Robin and Rebecca, it's Adobe's desire to price it fairly so that everyone can get into the act-especially small print shops.

Once you have PDF Transit, you customize it to your specifications. You can give it your company name, say "Jones Printery," and set the distiller options the way you want them so that a PDF is produced, which is tailored to your workflow. You can also create a job ticket with any info that you need to effectively process and invoice the job.

Your clients visit your Website and download the customized PDF Transit client from your Web server, which is not only custom-tailored to your specs, but could be further customized for that specific customer. Note that the look and feel of your Website is your's-PDF Transit only enhances your current Web interface capability. PDF Transit does not provide the Web pages; it only connects to your existing or future Web pages.

Your client doesn't need to have a full version of Acrobat. The customer simply opens the file that they want you to print, in whatever application they created it in, and then activates the standard print dialog box.

In the dropdown menu that lists the various laser and ink-jet printers they will find Jones Printery (if that's the name you wanted). The client selects Jones Printery, clicks print, and the file is distilled and encrypted as per your specs. If the fonts or the attached files aren't found, the client will be notified. It will be your choice as to whether or not you will accept RGB.

The client is then guided to fill out the custom job ticket you created, which will be sent with the file. The client can proof the resulting PDF using the free Acrobat Reader by printing it on their ink-jet or laser printer for review. If the client is satisfied, he or she can send you the file and job ticket over the Internet by just clicking send. Or they can make a CD and deliver it by more traditional methods. It's all that easy for customers and you get a file that's fit for your purpose.

PDF Transit will be available very soon and, I believe, will become the key component in enabling a streamlined, Internet-based print workflow. Printers will most likely have options to buy PDF Transit directly from Adobe and customize it themselves or buy it from a company (usually referred to as an OEM) that will include PDF Transit as part of a package that will facilitate other aspects of the printer's needs. I have heard rumors about a great deal of OEM activity and keen interest from some of the large chain and franchise printers.

To me, as a printer, it puts the responsibility of creating a printable file in the right place-the file creator. After all, if they're going to reap the benefits of doing so much of the prepress activities that we once claimed as our's, they ought to at least supply a clean file. PDF Transit will enable you to give customers the tools to make it easy for them to submit files that flow nicely within your workflow.

As always, I'm interested in your comments and thoughts. But before I sign off I want to urge everyone to get back out there and attend industry events. I know times are tough, but this is how we all learn and grow. The annual VUE/Point conference, for example, is a wonderful learning experience that allows printers to interact with their peers and with prominent industry vendors.

An investment in knowledge is invaluable. Knowledge, experience and judgment are the key factors in the growth and survival of a printing operation. And ,of all the tools that need constant shaping, knowledge requires the most attention. zz

Harry Waldman

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