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Author: Samuel Hargis

Preflight for Graphic Design and Prepress, an Application or Process?

Designers and prepress operators often think of Preflight as an application. An application that runs on files to verify files and identify potential problems. I have trained hundreds of operators in how to prepare First Time Right Postscript and PDF files. That’s the first thing that I set folks straight on.
Preflight is a process. It’s a process of going through every predictable problem that can happen with your printing job. If you think it’s a software that you run and that’s it, you are not going to be able to produce First Time Right PDF files. There are many, many things that software cannot even check for, and things unique to YOUR jobs, customers, company that are important. Things that MUST be checked to ensure success and accuracy.

50% of commercial printing is headed for a delay or additional costs:

Publishers and printers regularly report more than 50 percent of the digital files they receive are improperly prepared to spec. Thus, these files will need preflight & then repair to go forward. This may be done by a publisher, printer, or kicked back to the graphic designer. At stake is the budget and schedule of the print project. Now, think about that… 50% of commercial printing projects are destined for a delay in schedule or additional costs when submitted!
A graphic design project may be made for print, web, and or video. Depending on the type of media, documents must be prepared exactly to specifications based on final output media. Common file flaws include fonts not embedded or supplied, color space(CMYK vs. RGB, or inappropriate use of Pantone or specialty colors), and resolution conflicts. These are some of the many things that can be identified quickly by Preflight tools. A Preflight tool is utility software that is specially suited to help identify these file issues.

Preflight Software, helpful, required, but not a Whole Solution:

So there are tools that help. But what about things you have to identify by visual inspection? What about bleed and trim margins, placement and position, checking dates on event ads and coupon ads. What about checking every full page ad that is a repeat to be sure that the folio (page number) is deleted or updated. What about copy flow from 2 successive documents in a publication. These are all things that must be checked visually by a human. So, if you want to be a top notch designer or prepress operator, there is a list of important Preflight items that you, the human, must check. I always advise people to develop and update THEIR LIST every time a mistake is found or caught. Use the list as a checklist often enough that it becomes completely automatic to you as you prepare and process graphics files. If you get burned on a project, think of making that a part of your preflight checklist. An example or beginning preflight checklist can be found at this URL, review it and use it as a starting point.

Preflighting Applications, Help, and History of Preflight:

I once read an article that stated Preflight Applications were invented in the 1990’s. Actually, preflight applications are nothing new at all. The early layout applications like Quark Xpress, Aldus PageMaker, Adobe Photoshop, Ready Set Go, were the first preflight applications. Preflight applications were invented in the 80’s, and have been improved upon and developed since. Today there is a Free Preflight Tool available called FreeFlight™ at the URL below, you can download the software free and get free help and support.

There is also an online community at PREPRESSFORUM.COM that has extensive and free, user to user support. I help folks there most every day and the site is chock full of great insider tips, tricks, problems and solutions. I would encourage any designer, publisher, or printer to join and participate, teach or learn. All experience levels are welcome to post and answer questions at this site.

Examples of First Preflight Software Tools:

Example (A) PageMaker has a links palette that scanned through the document providing a report about images linked/missing, RGB/CMYK, Tiff/EPS, etc. This was a preflight results report covering the main document AND many support document files combined. Thus Pagemaker was a preflight tool that could report on files originating from other applications, like scans. It would give the user a list of confirmations and or problems identified that was to be used to repair and prepare files prior to output.

Example (B) Quark Xpress has had a usage palette, when called, it scans through the open document providing detailed reports about fonts used/missing, images used/missing/modified, image types, image colors, image paths. This was a preflight results report covering the open document AND many support document files combined. Thus Quark Xpress was a preflight tool that could report on files originating in other applications, like scans. It would give the user a list of confirmations and or problems identified that was to be used to repair and prepare files prior to output. Additionally Quark Xpress may have started collect for output, a feature mentioned in other patents from the 1990’s regarding preflight software invention.

Example© Adobe Photoshop was used to inspect and verify images. Back in the day, a user would grab all the Tiffs and Eps placed into a job. The selected files drag & dropped onto Adobe Photoshop would automatically open and display the color space in the title bar of each file, CMYK/RGB/Grayscale etc. Thus Adobe PhotoShop was a preflight tool that could report on files originating from other applications. An operator could open the Image size palette and verify resolution before closing each document. Thus a semi-automatic preflight of graphic images was performed. So, yes, Adobe Photoshop was and still is a preflight application and a file repair application that could inspect and identify problems in files which it did not originate.

Preflighting, Today’s Hottest Current Applications:
QuarkXpress 6.5, QuarkXpress 7, Adobe InDesign CS2, these applications have built in preflight function these days. Unlike all other preflight software, these are native function that is fast and effective. Best of all, they come at no additional cost to the designer, publisher, or printer. These are built into both of today’s most common preflight applications.
However, there’s a few very critical holes in the built in preflight of these applications. No need to worry, there’s a FREE preflight application caller FreeFlight™ that has been recently released to address this. The application is a free download from a Quark Xtension and Adobe Plug-In developer site . FreeFlight is a must have tool that supplements the use of QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign CS2 built in preflight. You can download and read about FreeFlight™ at this URL. http://FREE-PREFLIGHT.com
“Preflighting” as a printing term came to popularity in the 1990s as printers and service bureaus ensured that problematic files would be caught and fixed before they found their way into CTF (Computer to Film) workflow. In this century the term has evolved into other variations, like post-flight, indicating when in the workflow the file is actually verified. To Preflight is proactive quality control, Postflight is reactive quality control. Preflight is good manufacturing process, Postflight is not. This may be a nice topic for later. Take my word on it and avoid Postflight workflow schemes. Real craftsmen and professionals find and fix all problems at the earliest possible point. Many of these tools below are actually post-flight oriented tools.

Preflighting, The Older Expensive Applications for the job at hand:
Markzware FlightCheck Classic: This preflight software is developed by Markzware Software. Markzware’s FlightCheck Classic is a standalone application that scans, verifies and collects each job for output. Currently available as version 5.8 (6.0 was due out this fall), Although it was the gold standard for years and is still a great tool, the software is not staying current with releases of software. Example Quark Xpress 7. Markzware’s FlightCheck Classic will preflight a wide range of digital file formats, including PDF documents and those created in most popular native application programs (QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, PageMaker, etc.). Ground Controls enable users to highlight potential problems, out of more than 150 choices, for which to search. Single-user licenses for Windows and Mac users are available for about $400. This software is no longer recommended because development does not stay current with the support of new application versions that it’s users face every day like Quark Xpress 7.

Markzware FlightCheck Collect!: This preflight software deemed the “lite” version of Markzware’s FlightCheck Classic, FlightCheck Collect! inspects for common file problems, like improperly assigned color space, missing fonts and image or resolution conflicts. Once preflighted, the application can then collect the document, including images, extensions and screen and printer fonts, for output. Markzware offers Windows and Mac versions for around $180. This software is no longer recommended because development does not stay current with the support of new application versions that it’s users face every day like Quark Xpress 7.

Markzware HawkEye: This preflight software from Markzware is HawkEye, a preflighting tool designed specifically for designers and content creators. It runs as a plug-in to most popular desktop publishing applications like QuarkXPress, Illustrator, Acrobat, FreeHand and more. Before content is created, designers can create specifications (known as TrueFileSpecifications) for each job they plan to create. For example, an art director can choose the color schema or font set to use. If the designer mistakenly places an element into the document that doesn’t meet the TrueFileSpecifications, he or she is immediately alerted to the discrepancy. Users can also choose to forbid saving or printing a file that is in a “failed” or “unfixed” state, helping to better manage revisions, versions and cut down on consumable waste. This product from Markzware was advertised and was on a seybold Hot Picks 2002 but may have been pulled or may have never made it to market, unable to confirm at Markzware’s site?

PDF/X-1 Verifier 2.0: This preflight software developed for the DDAP (Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publication association, www.ddap.org), this application verifies the integrity of PDF/X-1a files, the professional format of choice for print advertising. This application is suited for both digital ad designers as well as file recipients like publishers, prepress suppliers and printers. It offers pass-fail results or more comprehensive preflight reports. DDAP members can purchase single-seat licenses for about $95; non-members pay about $125.

Apago PDF/X-1 CheckUp: This preflight software developed by Apago offers PDF/X-1 CheckUp 2.5, a plug-in to Adobe Acrobat that preflights and produces PDF/X files. It supports both ISO (International Standards Organization) PDF/X-1:2001 and PDF/X-1a:2001 standards. Mac and Windows versions are available for Acrobat 4.0.5 and 5.0, for about $250ea.

Enfocus PitStop Professional: This preflight software developed by Enfocus Software, PitStop Pro preflights and edits PDF documents. It checks for 140 potential problems and offers 70 automated correction features. After running the document through preflight, users can edit existing objects and text, or add new elements. It’s also equipped to re-map color space or tag/detag images with ICC (International Color Consortium) profiles. The software comes with several common PDF profiles to select according to a file’s final destination. Windows and Mac versions of PitStop Professional are available for about $550. Enfocus Pitstop is a great tool for repairing bad PDF files. However, it is not recommended as a Preflight solution. Since the PDF is the end result, to check a PDF files is really Postflight, a good preflight workflow is about making good PDF in the first place.

Extensis Preflight Pro: This preflight software is developed by Extensis, Preflight Pro inspects entire folders of native application documents created in popular desktop publishing applications like QuarkXPress, Acrobat, Illustrator, PageMaker, Photoshop and FreeHand. Following preflight inspection, the software then collects the job for output. Mac version is available for about $400.

TIFF/IT-P1 Checker: This preflight software developed for DDAP by Congruent Development, TIFF/IT-P1 Checker is a bundle of software tools, that includes TIFF/IT-P1 Preflight. Suited for both digital ad and packaging designers, it also represents a low-cost tool for any manufacturing partner that receives a large number of TIFF/IT-P1 files. It’s available in both Mac and Windows versions and costs about $100 for DDAP members, $180 for non-members.

Asura & Solvero: This preflight software created by OneVision Software AG, Asura eliminates frequently occurring production problems in PDF, EPS and PostScript files, with the help of hot-folder specifications. Asura preflights incoming files, while Solvero automatically repairs common problems. The system keeps a log of all changes made to a file. According to the developer, this coupled solution is most popular among newspaper publishers, which receive a wide range of digital file formats.

AdCheck: This preflight software developed by Total Integration, AdCheck 2.1 allows users to open and view production-image format files, including TIFF/IT, CT, HC and LW, using a standard Mac workstation. Its Show Info prompt provides detailed information about the file, including size and colors used.

Markzware MarkzNet: This preflight software developed by Markzware, MarkzNet is not an out-of-the-box preflighting solution. Rather, it’s a blend of the company’s popular FlightCheck technology with systems integration. For high-volume production environments, MarkzNet provides a Web-based portal into a company’s production workflow. Customers submit files with drag-and-drop simplicity. Files are automatically inspected for flaws or conflicts with the recipient’s specifications and either pass or fail. Failed files are rejected and both recipient and sender are immediately alerted to the problem. If the file passes, it’s automatically forwarded to the next stage of production for a truly seamless digital workflow. This software is not recommended because it is a web based tool and has proved to be really slow and not productive to many users.

Preflight Online: This preflight software developed from a partnership between Extensis and WAM!NET, Preflight Online is a Web-based solution for printers and publishers that need a custom-branded solution for receiving digital files from customers and advertisers. It accepts a wide range of file formats, including EPS, native Quark and Adobe PDF, preflights them and forwards files that pass directly to the recipient’s FTP server. There’s a one-time admin charge, as well as a monthly subscription fee that’s based on the customer’s actual inspection traffic. This software is not recommended because it is a web based tool and has proved to be really slow and not productive to many users.
http://www.extensis.com http://workspace.wamnet.com

TIFF/ITeyes: This preflight software developed by Rorke Data, enables users to view the complete data in TIFF/IT-P1 files, the widely adopted accredited standard for digital ad exchange. Users can measure X-Y coordinates, as well as CMYK values. http://www.rorke.com
SpeedFlow Check: This preflight software developed by OneVision, SpeedFlow Check is one component of a suite of tools that preflights, edits and imposes PDF, EPS and PostScript files. Files that pass SpeedFlow Check inspection are saved in PostScript or PDF form (depending on the manufacturer’s or publisher’s workflow) and sent to a hot-folder on the server. Problems may be fixed manually in SpeedFlow Edit and electronically routed to SpeedFlow Impose for impositioning.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/advertising-articles/preflight-for-graphic-design-and-prepress-an-application-or-process-75990.html

About the Author

© Samuel Hargis 2012—Freelance Custom Software DeveloperQuarkXpress Xtensions and Adobe InDesign Plug-Ins—for years, the author has provided development, consulting, and technical guidance to many of the largest, most successful printing and publishing companies in the graphic arts. Also has trained hundreds of designers, publishers and printers in PDF workflow, Font Management, and PrePress Preflight process automation. The author runs a free prepress support community.Software-Robotics Plug-Ins, XtensionsPrepress Forum, Computer to Plate

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