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PitStop Pro 19 Delivers the Tools Users Asked For

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  • PitStop Pro 19 Delivers the Tools Users Asked For

    PitStop Pro 19 Delivers the Tools Users Asked For
    The PDF editing platform we know as PitStop Pro has become a ubiquitous industry standard since it was introduced in 1993, embedded in the commercial printing industry like a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As the dominant preflight product, PitStop provides deep quality control and editing for PDF printing workflows. Over the decades, Enfocus has continued to develop new functionality, moving steadily toward more and more automation. Each new version incorporates more features for streamlining common preflight tasks based on pre-established profiles, further minimizing the need for operator interventions.

    PitStop 19 Released in April
    With mature software products that have been around the graphic arts industry for decades, questions sometimes arise regarding the relative merits of upgrades. For the vendor of course, the benefits are clear: they get a bump in revenue, which in turn allows them to make a profit and stay in business. This is also a somewhat oblique benefit for customers, though grudgingly acknowledged.
    But in terms of practical functionality, do the new features and functions associated with any given upgrade represent real improvements. Or, put another way, are they worth the price in terms of value?
    Take Microsoft Word for example. As far as I’m concerned this iconic word processing software was doing everything it needed to do 20 years ago. Stop helping me. I don’t need to be able to draw with my finger when I am writing an article and I’m still scarred from Clippy the psycho paper clip. I believe Clippy is gone, but I’ve seen enough Chuckie movies that I never feel secure.
    At the other end of that spectrum is Adobe Photoshop, now in its 4th decade. While some “upgrades” seem arbitrary and occasionally annoying, the overall trajectory is astounding. Adobe is now deploying “sensei” technology that combines AI and machine learning that moves creative productivity to a new place. Last year’s Select Subject feature release is not only tré cool, but it has already saved me a lot of time (which in my case, may or may not be the same as money).

    Now, having set the table with those philosophical questions, let’s take a look a PitStop 19. What is the new PitStop Pro release bringing to the table this year?
    As it turns out, there are at least three new features that would have to be characterized as essential solutions to serious problems, two of which have the potential for significant time savings and the other a very clever algorithm that can directly reduce costs.

    Selective Rasterization
    Potentially the most practically potent new PitStop tool, Selective Rasterization conveys the ability to rasterize only one component of a complex PDF, rather than the entire file. A typical scenario, for example, would be a multi-layered byzantine Adobe Illustrator document, custom designed to choke your RIP. Vector files with a multitude of anchor points, paths and clipping paths, for example, can make it virtually impossible to process the file.
    Prior to the latest PitStop version, the solution would have been to attempt to convert the entire file to an image, generally in Photoshop. However, there are any number of conditions that can make this solution dicey, especially when small text or fine detail is present in the design. The result may be pixelization or worse. Transparency, duotones, spot colors and other components can also complicate rasterization.

    Selective rasterization allows a single object to be isolated and rasterized, thereby reducing the total complexity of the file. With the number of paths reduced significantly, the net result is an improvement in processing efficiency and less operator frustration.

    Precision Targeting the Object Stack
    Another welcome tool is the “Object Browser”, which allows the operator to locate and select a single design component amongst multiple layers without spending hours at the task. A complex PDF is comprised of a pile of interactive objects, connected by functions such as overprint, masking, clipping and transparency blending. As is the case with many graphics platforms that employ layers, the component the operator needs to work on is often obscured by objects in other layers. If there is more than one object in several locations required, the selection task is even more challenging.

    The solution is elegantly simple. The Object Browser shows the stack in a tree list format, from which the operator chooses the relevant graphic element or elements. Once selected, the objects can be edited as usual. The illustration shows an example in which a color change is required for multiple objects in the PDF. The tree also provides an overview of the PDF structure.

    Saving On Click Charges
    The Preflight for Digital Printers feature is a seemingly low key analytic tool that can save real money in the real world by reducing click charges. What this feature does is identify black objects that are composite blacks rather than “K” only, a scenario that can trigger additional click charges on a digital printing device. This profile can also fix the file automatically if you tell it to.

    There are a number of reasons that a page can “look black”, while actually being comprised of varying levels of combined RGB or CMYK channels. This action looks for those conditions when turned on in PitStop Pro. Under Preflight Profiles, the selection that controls this function has a beautifully literal name: Digital Print: Reduce Clicks, Looks Black, Make Black.

    And that’s what it does. When a composite black is found, the profile is able to automatically modify the object to a single black, single click. The profile can be further customized to add user specified functionality.

    Show non-printing objects outside the visible page

    One additional new tool has the potential to save operators' time. PDF files often contain content that goes outside of the bounding boxes, which sometimes leads to RIP processing challenges. These unknown elements may cause problems during printing or imposition. The process of manually enlarging the boxes for the purpose of analysis is another unrewarding task that can eat up a lot of time. Even determining the size you have to make the boxes in order to view the whole file is a good example of a seemingly small vexation that nevertheless eats up time like an evening watching America’s Got Talent.

    The new “Show Objects outside of page box” is a simple click on/click off function that toggles on a view of the entire PDF, automatically increasing the size of the media and crop boxes to reveal unneeded, non-printing elements.
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