Why I LOVE PDFs
(and you should, too!)
I know, strange title, but I work in prep and if you could see some of the files we receive to print from, you'll understand the reason for my exclamation. Now some of you may be thinking "duh, everybody knows this." Well, I can assure you, they don't. Trust me. And it's only because they have not been persuaded to do so. Why? well that's debatable, but I want to encourage those that aren't in-the-know to take a leap of faith. Adopting a PDF workflow will change your relationship with your vendors for the better. So for those of you that already know the rewards of a PDF workflow, bare with me while I espouse on the huge benefits, time-savings, and lower cost of adopting PDF as your file format of choice for job submissions.
Ok so what's the BIG deal? I'm glad I asked, and actually there are 5 'BIG deal' points I'd like to make about PDFs:
1. Accessibility - PDFs can be viewed by everyone. That's right, PDF (Portable Document Format) is the de facto standard file format used throughout the web for single and multi-page documents, and unlike most native file formats like InDesign, Quark, Publisher, Illustrator, or CorelDraw which require their creator application for viewing, PDFs can be parsed by dozens of readers on almost every platform. Not to mention that Adobe's PDF Reader is available for free.
Still there? Okay, how about this...
2. Integrity - WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) There are many different flavors of PDF depending on your needs. What makes them so popular with many designers is that (if setup correctly) your file's layout integrity remains intact when viewed from other machines. In other words, everyone will see your document just the way it looks on your screen. Whether you're viewing it on a PC, a Mac, Linux machine, or on a smart device, it will look the same. In fact, this is one of the main reasons the PDF format was created. This makes it ideal for collaborating with clients, vendors, business and legal professionals, and colleagues alike!
Impressive, huh? Now, check this out...
3. Compatibility - most applications can save or export to PDF format Makers of every major document-layout program have recognized the importance of the PDF file format and have incorporated the ability to create them from within their applications. Many of you may have noticed this feature in your program and have more than likely use it to create PDFs as soft proofs to send along with your native files to the printer, but you're missing the HUGE selling point here. This means that you can work in your favorite program of choice to build your job *with no concern* for whether or not your printer has the same program (and version, hello?) on their end. YOUR program can save your file into a format that your printer can definitely use. Did you hear what I just said (err, read what I just wrote?) You and your vendor are forever liberated from the dreaded "file they can't open" scenario! That alone is worth the price of admission!
Ok, let's take a minute...someone's head just exploded.       ...It happens.
4. Portability - neat and compact (everything needed is embedded) There are usually a lot of components to building your job. There are fonts and vector graphics, charts and pictures, imported colors and text documents that you've pulled from lots of resources all over your computer (let's face it, during creative process, it's hard to keep tidy and organized when you're in the zone!) Most of these page layout applications are very forgiving about such disorganization (to a fault) because the app can keep track of those resources for you, so why worry? Well, normally when you send your job to the printer, they will need to have on hand all of those same resources to run your job. But with correctly prepared hi-res PDFs, EVERYTHING THE PRINTER WILL EVER NEED IS EMBEDDED in the PDF file! Fonts, graphics, bleeds, printer marks, ink colors, icc profiles and special trapping info are ALL CONTAINED WITHIN, so the PDF is the only thing you need to send. O-M-G!!
Uhh... I think I just wet myself.
5. Editing - simple, just send a new PDF Printers being able to make minor edits to your files has always been a big selling point of sending native files (supposedly, saving you time.) But there are 2 points I wish to make here: first, you're going to be making the same edits to the file on your end, anyway. And secondly, you can make the changes faster than anybody AND get them right the first time. So why not do it, and simply send the corrected page(s) as PDFs to the printer who can easily drop in and replace the old page with a new page. Because of PDF's page independence, moving or replacing pages will not upset the text flow or layout integrity of any other pages in the PDF document. This fact alone is a godsend to the Prep dept.
Just FYI - Sending PDFs with changes already made is a LOT faster than the printer having to reload the job, typeset changes and generate a new file to rip and reprocess for approval, which is all billable. Seriously, that's the way it works. The more you do, the less the job costs, which means less prep time and faster turnaround. PDFs are win-win for everybody.
So, I've just outlined 5 great benefits of a PDF workflow that will have a tremendous impact to your overall production (accessibility, file integrity, compatibility, portability, and editing timesaver.) I can go on and on about the benefits to be had, and in fact, I do with a few of my colleagues still living in the dark ages. I'm determined to bring them into light kicking and screaming. I'm just trying to say that (if you haven't yet) you should try to send in your next job as a high res press ready PDF. Ask your sales executive or customer service rep what's needed in order to make the switch. Don't be surprise if a bouquet of flowers shows up at your door (or your desktop.)
I'm just sayin'