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  • Online PDF preflight solutions

    Hi all,

    I'm currently in the process of giving my print shop's site a (much needed) redesign. One of the features that's been most requested by my coworkers is a means to preflight PDFs through our site, as a service to our customers and as a way to minimize headaches in the art department. I've searched around, but I haven't really found anything that would suit our needs. Most of the solutions I've come across, such as Markzware's [FlightCheck|http://markzware.com/flightcheck_professional/], make use of a stand-alone program, but that's a little too much for our purposes (not to rag on FlightCheck; looks like a great program).

    Really, we just need something that we could integrate into a file uploader script that would examine a PDF and return a page alerting customers to the usual suspects- RGB colors, low-res images, missing links, and so on. I have some PHP experience and I'm not afraid of diving into a framework of some kind to get exactly what I need.

    So my question is: Does anybody have any experience with online PDF preflighting? Does your print shop make use of a commercial service that you could recommend? I just need something simple, elegant, and scalable- price isn't a huge concern, though for what I need I can't justify the expense of a gigantic be-all-end-all PDF solution.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer me; it is sincerely appreciated.

  • #2
    Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

    http://www.programurl.com/dev-zero-g...ng-service.htm

    http://www.markzware.com/marketing/p..._03_22_FCO.php

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

      Thomas, thank you for your prompt response.

      Re: Flightcheck. Most of our customers are accustomed to simply uploading their files to us through a web form; I've discussed the possibilities of an integrated file uploader and preflighter with my supervisors but they didn't warm to the idea. As I said in the first post, Flightcheck's a little too much for what we need.

      Re: DevZeroG. This is closer, but we wouldn't have the ability to brand or otherwise customize the service and we really don't want to direct our customers to an off-site utility to do this. I checked out their product page to see their other services; PrintSure sounds interesting but it too has way more features than we need and the price made me swoon.

      More than anything else, scalability is my biggest need. BCL's [easyPDF SDK|http://www.pdfonline.com/easypdf/sdk/index.htm] intrigues me, but I'm not sure if it's suitable for creating a preflighting tool. I'm currently trying to get in touch with their sales department to find out.

      (I post this not to criticize your links but to clarify my needs in case I was unclear in my first post. Thanks again for your reply.)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

        I thought the FlightCheck "online" link was spot on. Maybe I misread what the tool really does, but it sure seemed at first glance to be a "skinnable" web-based preflight tool.

        I've used [PDF Tools AG|http://www.pdf-tools.com/] in the past to build my own PDF "systems". If you want to code your own PHP site that does calls to a PDF programmers' toolkit in the background, they might have something for you. What they call "analysis and validation" though probably isn't as exhaustive as a prepress pro would expect. Mainly just comparing the file to the PDF specification.

        Another PDF programming library provider is [ActivePDF|http://www.activepdf.com], though again, they don't approach PDF inspection from a prepress viewpoint. It's more for programmatic PDF building, extraction, page reordering, form fill-in.

        You could always get a scalable, automated, full-on desktop preflight tool, and simply feed it PDFs your client uploads, and feed the reports from the tool back out to the web. It might not be real-time: submit the PDF. Process it "offline". Generate reports. Email the user a hyperlink back to the report... but that might satisfy most of your requirements.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

          I apologize- I didn't look closely enough at your Flightcheck Online link. Before I posted here I did some searching and I found a Markzware press release for the regular Flightcheck program, and when I clicked your link I mistakenly assumed it was for the same product. Flightcheck Online actually looks pretty close to what I need.

          I see what you mean about PDF Tools and ActivePDF. Both close, but for the type of customers we get full-on PDF validation would be overkill. More than anything we want out customers to have a simple way to see if they're missing any minor issues without assuming that the PDF they sent us will magically work without errors. It certainly won't take the place of manual examination, but it'll be a nice supplement to it, as well as a nice service for our customers.

          I'm going to keep looking, but Flightcheck Online is sounding better and better. If all else fails, I've got at least one possible solution to consider. Thanks again!

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

            >I have some PHP experience and I'm not afraid of diving into a framework of some kind to get exactly what I need.

            There aren't a lot of options accessing PDF from PHP. It seems many of the tools are made to be used with ASP or .NET.

            >a file uploader script that would examine a PDF and return a page alerting customers to the usual suspects- RGB colors, low-res images, missing links, and so on.

            Most PDF "frameworks" don't have that kind of reach.

            >BCL's easyPDF SDK intrigues me,

            I looked, that can't tell you if there are RGB colors in the PDF. If that is an important feature, you'll need to focus on products that can do that first. That feature will separate out the products you can't use quickly.

            >I've used PDF Tools AG in the past to build my own PDF "systems". If you want to code your own PHP site that does calls to a PDF programmers' toolkit in the background, they might have something for you. What they call "analysis and validation" though probably isn't as exhaustive as a prepress pro would expect. Mainly just comparing the file to the PDF specification.

            It does have a way to check if fonts are embedded, and at least one color information check. That would be the second feature to look for in a piece of software. The manual says support for PDF/X checks is planned for the future.

            >ActivePDF, though again, they don't approach PDF inspection from a prepress viewpoint. It's more for programmatic PDF building, extraction, page reordering, form fill-in.

            Again, the specific needs of prepress are not easy to find in most PDF manipulation products.

            I use or have used activePDF, Adobe's FDF ToolKit, pdfmeld, and pdftk. I call any and all of them from PHP, none through a direct PHP function. I also use ghostscript or the evince thumbnailer to create PNGs of PDFs for web use.

            I think FlightCheck is likely an easy solution, you might spend more on the scripting framework to get the features you need than for FlightCheck. I would have the client copy the PDF via WebDAV, and use FlightCheck hot folders. You'd just need some scripting to get the PDF to the hot folder on your internal network. Do you host your web site at your facility, or do uploads to your web site need to be downloaded to your shop ?


            Chasd

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

              Thanks, Charles. You've given me a lot to think about.

              Our website is hosted off-site at a local web hosting company. The service has been less than stellar, to say the least. We've been with them since before I joined the company, but I'm looking to remedy that very soon. I'd love to host our site in-house, but I can't see it happening. We're one of the largest print shops in the Southeast Texas area, but... well, 'nuff said. A shared hosting plan is probably as good as it'll get for our humble print shop. At least, for now.

              A representative from BCL called me back about the easyPDF SDK; as you surmised, it's lacking some features that would be crucial for what I had in mind.

              I suppose I'm running the risk of being too picky, though it's really amazing that there's not more options available for this sort of thing. It certainly seems like there'd be a market for it. Ah, well. I'll keep searching, but FlightCheck Online's sounding better and better. Thanks again for your help.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                Hi James,

                There are definitely quite a few solutions out there. More and more companies are trying to facillitate file delivery and automate preflighting. I have a question about one of your statements:

                +but for the type of customers we get full-on PDF validation would be overkill. More than anything we want out customers to have a simple way to see if they're missing any minor issues without assuming that the PDF they sent us will magically work without errors.+

                Why would full-PDF validation be overkill? The more intense your preflight in the beginning, the easier it will be for your prepress staff to streamline the workflow. We've all seen it before where a file will pass a preflight app, go to the RIP, and then fail. You want to try to catch that before it's time to make plates. The sooner the better.

                What workflow systems do you have in place now? There might be a solution provided by your vendor. Many have them such as Creo, Screen, Rampage, etc. Then there are others who specialize in preflighting like Markzware, OneVision, etc.

                Obviously, the quality of the preflight is important. But also the ease of use for your customers. Whatever information the preflight gathers you'll want to make sure is clearly presentable to your customers. So much hinges on the user experience. Moving this system in-house is definitely a good idea. Especially if you want files to be passed onto the workflow if they pass.

                Regards,
                Greg

                Systems Engineer
                OneVision, Inc.
                Premedia Software Inc.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                  James, et al;

                  The one solution that everyone is not mentioning is callas pdfInspektor CLI. It's a command line driven application that runs on, I think, 6 platforms and can be directly integrated into your website. I have two customer myself who are using it this way right now. One of them is HubCast, Inc. (http://www.hubcastinc.com). All uploaded PDF's are preflighted via the website. There are a number of other customers (many in Germany) who use callas pdfInspektor in their websites. pdfInspektor is multi-threaded so it can perform quite well. The reports can be saved out as XML or XMLV2 and in multiple languages. So putting the reports back into the website should be simple task.

                  You can easily find a copy of pdfInspektor everywhere Adobe Acrobat Pro 6 and above are installed since Adobe OEM'ed callas pdfInspektor as the preflight engine in Acrobat. You can also find Callas technology in places like Xerox and HP workflows. pdfInspektor can search for over 800 parameters inside of a PDF. Many of them revolve around checking fonts and how they are encoded in the PDF. Have you ever seen odd spacing in a PDF, characters jumbled on top of each other, text drop out, or characters show up as little boxes? Those are most often because of font embedding/encoding issues. pdfInspektor is the only one that I know that can check the individual glyphs to make sure that they are correctly referenced and embedded.

                  Edited by: Matt Beals on Sep 20, 2007 6:53 AM
                  Matt Beals
                  The views expressed here are my own personal views and are not those of my employer.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                    Nice tip about pdfInspektor !

                    We have had issues with some PDF files getting "munged" characters when "stitching" PDFs together using ActivePDF ToolKit. We narrowed it down to a font encoding problem, but we had no way to determine if the problem would occur until the processing was complete.

                    The licensing cost is a bit high for our current use, but if we keep adding PDF processing applications to our palette, that would be a good tool to have.

                    Chasd.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                      For the price, speed, platform support, level of detail and flexibility in reporting it's pretty inexpensive at $3,250. If you're in an ASP model then it gets expensive.

                      But all of the callas tools in the CLI suite, pdfInspektor, pdfCorrect, pdfColorConvert and pdfImpose can be integrated as I described into a website.
                      Matt Beals
                      The views expressed here are my own personal views and are not those of my employer.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                        I found this, but really don't know much about it except it's free. Maybe someone can give some input.

                        http://free-preflight.com/

                        Don

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                          Why not use the preflight built into acrobat?

                          MSD

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                            Well it would make things a lot easier. Adobe went to a lot of trouble to put Callas pdfInspektor into Adobe Acrobat Pro 6 and above.
                            Matt Beals
                            The views expressed here are my own personal views and are not those of my employer.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Online PDF preflight solutions

                              The original thread asked for "online" preflight tools. Acrobat has never been licensed for Server use, and their server tools are confusing, expensive, and seem to frequently change names and pricing models.

                              Comment

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