Managing Your Workflow with Adobe Systems' Portable Document Format (PDF)
by Blake Medulan

Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) is anything but new but it is only now gaining momentum in Design and Print houses. With Quark, Corel and Adobe pledging continued support for this format, PDF is likely to become a staple with designers and production crews alike. A completely device-independent language, PDF will print on high end as well as low budget printers - regardless of PostScript functionality - to the highest achievable quality of the device.


Typical workflow in PS environment

As a part of the workflow, PDF is invaluable to reducing file size and increasing portability. Like .eps the PDF file contains printing information embedded such as fonts and images so supplemental files are not needed. An .eps file however is not page independent and outputs from various applications differ widely. The PDF file also contains a compression algorithm so the size of the resulting file is reduced up to 80% of the eps output. What this means to a production department is a reduction in the total time ripping files for output. Working with a Xerox Fiery system the comparative times for ripping a document were evident. The .eps took 5 minutes to run through the queue and the PDF 35 seconds - an identical file with identical printing results.


Typical workflow in PDF environment

In a typical post-script pre-press environment the designer creates a file and outputs it to a Post-script format. The postscript file is then handed off to the production department - along with the images and fonts to deal with. In a traditional production environment based on PS files it was impossible to know what the last page of a 100 document looked like without first processing the first 99 pages. It was also impossible to make last minute corrections without sending the file back to the designer, who would have to open the original file, make the corrections in the application that created the file and then output the file again. With a large multi-paged document this can be a very memory intensive and time-consuming job. If the production dept. needs to correct a simple punctuation mistake an up to date version of various application software is needed. Then the file needs to be ripped and finally outputted.


Adobe illustrator can open pdf files, (single pages at a time) edit, and resave to pdf format

In a typical pre-press environment based on the PDF format a designer creates a file and outputs it to PDF format. This file can then be handed off to the production department. There is no need to include font files with output as the PDF file contains all the font knowledge imbedded in the file. If a change needs to made to the file the production department needs only a to open a single page of the document. The library of applications the production department needs is reduced from many to one. Times for ripping the file are greatly reduced resulting in a much more manageable workflow and reducing the load on internal networks.

What this means to the design department is postscript results on a non-postscript printer or a manageable file that can be sent directly to clients by email or disk for proofing that can be viewed on-screen or printed in-house. If the client has software that will edit a PDF file, they can make changes directly to the document before sending the file back to the designer.


PageMaker can open pdf files (single page at a time) with plugin available from adobe. To save changes, the file will need to be distilled.

One of the most revolutionary concepts behind the adobe .pdf format is also what makes it attractive to production and design departments. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on software that will only allow the opening and printing of proprietary files, the adobe reader program is distributed freely and allows for both the viewing and printing of files. Pages can also be added into exact position from document to document by opening both documents and selecting the View Thumbnails option. If there are no thumbnails saved, they can be created through the Document menu. Stretch the window so that both the page view and the pdf you wish to add the page to can be viewed. Drag the thumbnails into position, moving from one document to the other. Creating .pdf files can be accomplished through Adobe Distiller, a program that comes free with selected Adobe products and Adobe Acrobat, a tool for creating hyperlinked and multimedia PDFs. Adobe Illustrator can also save and edit PDF files and an upgraded plugin for PageMaker 6.5 allows for the viewing and saving of PDF files. It should be noted that both Illustrator and PageMaker only open a single page of the PDF file at a time and when saving these edits file sizes are increased.


With Distiller application shipped with PageMaker you can create pdf files with
printer and eps files from a variety of sources.

With Distiller and a PS driver almost any program can be induced to create PDF files. By using the Print to File option available on most application print screens, the resulting file (.eps or prn) can, in most cases, be run through the distiller to create a PDF file.

- Blake Medulan