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Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal
Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.

All PDF Files Are Not the Same

October 15th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal

Author: Bob Honn, Director of Marketing Services, Wide Format Printing Systems Division, Océ North America

PDF files are used more than ever, and the AEC market is no exception. With Adobe® Reader® software being freely available for every computer, PDF has become the ubiquitous file format for electronically distributing, viewing and printing all types of data and information. However, not all PDF files are the same.

Since the introduction of Adobe Acrobat® software, Adobe has created numerous versions and PDF files, adding new features and expanding functionality. Plus, there are numerous third party PDF creation applications, adding even more variation.

So why is it important to know that all these PDF versions exist? Because certain PDF versions print more consistently than others, and there are specific features in a PDF file that can greatly affect processing speed and printing accuracy. Creating and printing PDF files without an understanding of all their nuances can create challenges and delays.

Why Don’t All PDF Files Print the Way I Want?

Multiple editions of Adobe Acrobat have lead to a variety of PDF file versions, which in turn create challenges to ensuring print accuracy. Layers of transparencies (i.e., when two or more objects in a document overlap), missing fonts and poorly defined page boxes are the most common problems.

The use of color and how the color is defined also impacts processing time and the final printed output. While most engineering and architectural drawings are created in color, many are still printed in black and white. Problems can arise when color is converted to grayscale. For example, the color yellow might be very visible on a monitor but will become a very faint gray when printed in black and white. For on screen viewing, RGB color is appropriate; however, color printers typically use CMYK inks or toners, potentially causing colors to change during the conversion process.

Is There More Than One Way To Print A PDF File?

The process used to print PDF files can also affect the final output, so it’s important to understand each method’s unique characteristics. There are two methods that can be used – the Application/Printer Driver Method and the Direct PDF Printing Method.

As its name implies, the Application/Printer Driver method requires two pieces of software in order to print – application software that can open and view the PDF file (e.g. Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader), and Print Driver software to convert documents into a printable format. Both work together to convert the PDF into a language the printer can understand. The disadvantage to this method is there is no easy way to handle batch printing of multiple PDF files.

With the Direct PDF Printing method an application submits PDF files directly to the printer and the file is converted in the printer using an Adobe PostScript® interpreter or processor. No printer driver is required. This method offers flexibility by giving users the ability to batch print multiple PDF files in one job, but not all printers support this method.

How Can I Avoid PDF Printing Problems?

It’s important to understand how to best use PDF printing software and identify problems before documents are printed. Preflighting PDF files in Acrobat software should alert you to potential issues before actually printing the documents. In many cases, the problems can be corrected.

While using Adobe Acrobat software can fix a good majority of PDF issues, it can’t fix every problem. One of the easiest ways to avoid a large majority of PDF printing problems is to create PDF files in or convert them to the PDF/X standard. The PDF/X standard requires that all fonts be embedded, bounding boxes be specified, color be correctly defined and it removes transparency issues – eliminating the most common errors in file preparation.

Remember: Not All PDF Files Are the Same

There are countless variables that influence how a PDF file is created and how it will print. As the popularity of the PDF file format increases in the AEC market, users will need to be better equipped to handle their complexities. Understanding the issues is a good first step.

To learn more about how AEC professionals can improve their PDF printing, visit Océ’s WideFormatPrintingResourceCenterat


Category: Oce

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