by John Giles Customers don't know what they don't know. Today's customer understands he can create a file on his computer and print it. He knows he can add photos and graphics and include color. He just doesn't understand how to put it all together to get it to print on professional printing equipment. Some printers are taking a proactive stand and are training customers to prepare files for printing. They aren't teaching the customer how to use a software application: they are showing them how to put everything together properly so the file will print when the printer gets it. Customers want to give printers good files but don't know what software programs they should use. They don't understand fonts and graphics. And although the color looks good on the screen, they don't know--or understand--how it will change when printed. Using their knowledge of different programs and the equipment in their shop, a printer's prepress staff can develop a training program based on the standards used by their company. In a 90-minute seminar, the customer can be taught the basic information needed to prepare a file properly. It's a great investment that pays off in less time spent working with customers' files, improved workflow, lower operating costs, and greater customer satisfaction. The specific details vary by print provider but basic training should include: * Standard software applications supported. Page layout programs are used to do page layout. Graphic programs are used to create graphics that go inside page layout programs. Word processing programs can create letters and forms, but aren't really page layout programs since they don't manage color well or allow for separations. With the hundreds of software programs to pick from, customers need to know what ones the printer supports. * How fonts affect printed file. Can the customer submit fonts with the file? Can fonts be substituted? How do you convert fonts to curves or paths in graphics? Should the customer use PostScript or PDF file formats to embed the fonts in the file? Customers need to know how to avoid font issues, the No. 1 reason a file fails. * How to submit graphics and photographs. Customers need to know how to prepare graphics and photographs properly. What formats does the printer want the customer to use to save the graphic file? What format should be used to save photographs? The customers need to know the resolution requirements for graphics and photos. They also need to know what graphic formats to avoid when printing a file professionally. * Color issues. Customers also have to be trained about color. The color on the computer screen probably won't be the same color produced by the print engine. Customers need to understand what color models to use and what differences to expect from their computer monitor. They need to know the different between spot, CMYK and RGB color models, which to use in a given program, and how the color can affect the cost of the order. * PostScript and PDF training. Many customer won't be able to provide PDF files but they can provide PostScript files that the printer can distill into a PDF file. The procedure should be demonstrated and the advantages discussed. Customers who do have Acrobat Distiller capabilities should be showed the proper way to distill a print file and given a custom Job Option to use. * Standard requirements. Other issues, policies and procedures can be covered in a seminar. The need for a printed sample of the digital file can be stressed. The proper way to submit files over the Internet can be discussed. Issues with word processing files can be covered. Any information that can help the customer create a good file should be offered. Most customers will appreciate the information a printer can provide. Customers know they can get higher quality and faster turnaround by creating their own digital files. The printer who trains them how to do it properly will develop a strong relationship built on their added value that competitors will find hard to break.