Commentary & Analysis
FREE: Seybold New York: Thoughts on Information Packaging
by Noel Ward,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: March 8, 2002
by Noel Ward, WTT Editor@Large As I noted in this space last time, Seybold New York's primary focus was on digital asset management (DAM) and content management (CM). Xerox showing off its Phaser line of printers and Agfa were about the only large players actively flouting their hardware. It's a sign of the changes in how businesses and consumers alike use information and how the document creation and production workflows have shifted to support those changes. In my mind, one of the highlights of the show was the Mercedes Benz exhibit. Talk about hardware! The automaker had a gleaming selection of its fine cars on display, which made for a nice break from looking at software displayed on flat panel monitors. But the highlight was that a version of the product literature and prices could be beamed into your PDA. Sure, you could pick up a beautifully printed hard copy brochure as well, but the portability of information presented by the PDA version is just an inkling of what is to come in flexible content and customer relations. For instance, once the file is in your PDA, and you want more info on a model, just select the model and ask for literature. The request will be emailed to Mercedes Benz USA for fulfillment the next time you sync your PDA and computer. Or maybe you want to talk about a nice lease deal. The data beamed to your PDA features a database of all the Mercedes dealers in the United States. You select a state, city, and you get name, address and phone number of the dealer. Want to contact them about that new E-class convertible you've been fantasizing about? Another screen lets you plug in your contact info into an email to the dealer that will be sent the next time you synch. There is also a somewhat cheesy little game called eDrive that lets you pilot a car down a road and hit icons that provide information on the model you have selected. OK, so the little low-res screen of a PDA is not a great choice for viewing something like a car. That's not the point. This is about information packaging. People are finding new ways to view and consume information, and new tools and workflows are being created to support this need. activePDF PDF, for example, has come a very long way. activePDF, makers of Jaws PDF Creator and PDF Server, also have activePDF Server, an industrial strength solution for multi-threaded production in demanding environments. Customers as diverse as the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Virginia, Pacific Life Insurance, the Department of Defense, and Hewlett-Packard have implemented solutions to automate PDF production of a wide range of document types. activePDF offers native support for over 280 document formats and has no per-document or per-user costs. Some aspects of it work like a giant Acrobat plug-in that let users do things with PDFs that previously required many steps or awkward workflows. That kind of automation is great, but in production workflows where high-end PDFs, such as those used in print advertising often need last minute edits, accuracy and consistency of the PDF can be crucial. For that need there's Enfocus. Enfocus One of the leaders in PDF workflow, Enfocus has created the Enfocus Certified PDF, a means of helping assure users the PDF they are about to send to print will deliver the intended results. The process is based on PDF Profiles that are embedded in the file at its creation, then "watched" to ensure changes to the file are consistent with the profile. A total of 140 criteria can be defined, allowing many different profiles to be created, such as one for different types of presses, magazine requirements and the like. At Seybold, Enfocus announced additional support for Certified PDF with a Training Partner Program which offers certification for individuals and training companies. Training experience must include Acrobat and Enfocus's own core products and a formal test is required for certification. Such certification and training is an excellent way to help ensure PDFs will work as intended, which ultimately makes the use of Enfocus products easier and enhances use of PDF as a document production standard. Which brings us back to information packaging. PDFs are becoming an accepted standard for print files, can be read in Web browsers and even PDAs. The value of a document looking the same regardless of how it is packaged is important for branding and corporate image, making reliable production techniques essential. Whether you are a document owner, creator or producer, look for ways to package information in different containers, and seek out workflows and quality control systems to make sure everything works as well as it can.