Portable Document Format (PDF) There are still a couple of limitations to the PDF file has become a dominating factor in producing print files of all kinds. It all started in the late 80’s when John Warnock of Adobe dreamed of “being able to send full text and graphics documents over electronic mail distribution networks. These documents could be viewed on any machine and any selected document could be printed locally. This capability would truly change the way information is managed.”
Indeed it has. Even if PDF hasn’t replaced paper in offices around the world (people still print out PDF files at a healthy pace), it has become a favorite way to distribute and print files. In fact, millions of PDF files are sent over the Internet daily, and hundreds of millions are printed every year. It’s impossible to measure the overall impact the PDF file format has had or how many paper documents have been replaced, but we can start by considering that there are currently more than 2 million PDF documents available on U.S. government external web sites alone.
Of course as the use of PDF developed, users demanded more and more features. They wanted to be able to put ever more complex text and illustrations in their documents. Adobe adapted the product through several versions. Determining the version is a little confusing because the latest software version is Acrobat 7, although the latest version of the PDF specification is 1.6. To further the confusion, there are several “flavors” of PDF that have different specifications depending on what the file is to be used for.
There are still a couple of limitations to the PDF format. One is that PDF files are not easily edited, and another is that not all PDF files are appropriate for all types of printing.
Your printer is a good source of information about how to create a proper PDF, and you’ll want to discuss the “flavor” of PDF that works best in their workflow. Some printing processes have kept pace with the new tools such as the ability to put layers and transparencies in a PDF file, and some have not. And some software products are better than others at making a good PDF for printing. Be cautious: some software makes PDF files that are suitable for “office” printers, but not suitable for commercial printing.
For commercial printing of PDF, a fairly rigid set of rules must be followed for preparing those files. Most important is that the files are in the proper color space and resolution and that all fonts are embedded in the document. Your printer can “flight check” your PDF file to see if it has been created properly.
In Acrobat 7, Adobe has built in the capability for people who create documents in the full professional version to allow customers and clients to add comments and “sticky notes” to PDF files using the free Acrobat Reader. This has made it much easier for printers and designers to interact with non-technical managers, buyers and consumers much more efficiently. It has created new ways of collaborating in the process of producing printed materials.
Before you start a new project, feel free to contact us to discuss the “flavor” of PDF that works best in our workflow. We’re happy to assist you.