Commentary & Analysis
Adobe PDF Print Engine: The Next Wave in Print Workflow
By Cary Sherburne,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: April 4, 2006
By Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com April 4, 2006 -- This week, Adobe announced the Adobe PDF Print Engine, new printing software technology that ensures that print hardware can output Portable Document Format (PDF) files that include complex designs and effects, such as transparency, quickly, accurately and consistently. Licensed as a software developer's kit (SDK) to OEM partners, Adobe PDF Print Engine will be featured in technology demonstrations at many IPEX stands, and the company expects to see the first products incorporating the technology at this year's Graph Expo. The new technology can be expected to appear in devices throughout the production chain According to Mathias Siegel, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, "With the integration of Macromedia, Adobe is positioned right in the middle of everything connected with publishing. And this announcement demonstrates that we are still committed to print as well as the myriad other business communications channels in which we play." The new technology can be expected to appear in devices throughout the production chain, including digital toner-based printers/copiers, platesetters, digital front end solutions, and eventually office devices. As Siegel points out, since this is a technology, rather than a product, it can be a little more difficult to describe. But in effect, it is designed to support printing workflows where graphic professionals create high-end, very complex print jobs that commercial printers print. Siegel says, "The capabilities of creative desktops over the last five or six years have outstripped the capabilities of the printer. Today, printers have to work in a workflow where these advanced features have to be converted, or flattened. With rasterization being a device-dependant process, there is a good chance that flattening can cause the piece to look different at the output device. Adobe PDF Print Engine is all about 'What You See is What You Print.'" "The capabilities of creative desktops over the last five or six years have outstripped the capabilities of the printer. Adobe PDF Print Engine is all about 'What You See is What You Print." Targeted at synchronizing workflow between designers and printers, Adobe PDF Print Engine incorporates two important technical and workflow principals to allow workflow to be based entirely on industry standards PDF and JDF. Siegel says, "Integrated PDF/JDF workflows are happening slowly today, and even in today's PDF workflow, there are still other formats that are being used, and that introduces ambiguity. Adobe PDF Print Engine will help printers maintain PDF print jobs in pure PDF format throughout the workflow until the bitter end of rendering without converting down to a lesser format that can remove information and lock jobs into certain output device characteristics. Even conversion of PDF 1.6 to PDF/X is a degradation of content, often making it uneditable or unable to incorporate late stage changes." In effect, Adobe PDF Print Engine is a PDF RIP, a native PDF renderer that takes PDF in and converts it directly to a high resolution bitmap instead of converting to PostScript or other data formats first. It uses PDF to define content, and JDF to capture process information, allowing the PDF file to stay device independent throughout the workflow to easily accommodate late stage modifications of both job content and output intent. For example, by not applying functions such as imposition or trapping to the PDF file, but capturing those steps in JDF, the PDF file can stay device independent to more easily accommodate late stage changes or to repurpose the PDF file for last minute redirection to alternative print devices. In effect, Adobe PDF Print Engine is a PDF RIP, a native PDF renderer that takes PDF in and converts it directly to a high resolution bitmap instead of converting to PostScript or other data formats first. PDF Print Engine uses the same core PDF libraries that have already been implemented in Adobe Creative Suite. Using consistent color libraries and common preview utilities in both the creative and production environments will increase the functionality at production and stands to speed up adoption rates for soft proofing, as creatives develop an increased level of trust and confidence in print production workflows. Siegel also points out that it can be difficult for printers to support the latest version of PDF as incorporated in desktop applications. This adoption is typically about a year behind creatives because of the product release cycles of print engine manufacturers and other OEMs. With Adobe PDF Print Engine, OEMs will be able to more easily upgrade RIPs without the need for major code changes. In addition, according to Siegel, these upgrades will deliver increased speed and performance. What asked what this means for the future of PostScript, Siegel said, "PDF Print Engine will be added to the portfolio and it will not replace PostScript. End users and OEM partners over the past two years that we have had Adobe PDF Print Engine in development have asked that PostScript be retained. We have been in maintenance mode with PostScript for the last few years, and we will continue in that mode."