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PDF: The Cure for Dawdling Digital Files

(December 1999) posted on Tue Dec 14, 1999

Learn the basics of creating PDF files.

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By Mark A. Coudray

Managing and maintaining the digital workflow is one of the most challenging aspects of printing today. Whether we screen print or output to digital-color printing devices, the efficiency and accuracy of graphics production depends largely on how we manipulate and move digital files throughout the process.


As we make the transition from analog to digital production, we face a formidable puzzle of digital components and procedures, with many of the pieces awkwardly arranged in precarious, unpredictable sequences. In the past, I've written about the nature of digital file preparation and how to direct customers to produce digital files we can actually use. But sadly, as noble as our attempts may be, we are unsuccessful more times than not. The complexity of the digital workflow just presents too many opportunities for mistakes when it comes to preparing and moving electronic graphics files.


Among the issues we face are an array of font-related problems, including missing screen or printer fonts, substitution of incompatible fonts (or defaulting to the dreaded Courier face), unstable font metrics (font and character spacing), and character positioning issues. Variation in font construction among the major providers, as well as differences between font types (PostScript, Bit Map, TrueType, and Multiple Master) are related issues.


We can only watch in horror as the characters we saw on our monitors are rendered in unexpected ways during printing or final output. Some progress in stabilizing these font issues has been made in recent years, but unless we convert all type to curves or paths (which makes future text editing virtually impossible), many of the issues remain.


Compositing multiple elements and layers in complex image files also presents difficulties. We are at the mercy of graphic designers to make sure that all the images or elements they used in the original layout program to build the complete graphic are included (and are the correct versions) when the composite file is saved and transferred to us.



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