The 2010 archive

These comments and polls appeared on the home page of during 2010:

December 2010

The poll: using metadata

A few years back I was reading the Seybold Report, at that point in time one of the most respected publications in the graphic arts industry. It featured a long article on the importance of metadata: adding keywords to images, inserting a short description in PDF files, or making sure information about the author and copyright are always included in files. Out of curiosity, I checked the metadata of the Seybold Reports PDF file itself. None were present so I emailed the editor to point out the contradiction. The next few issues had proper metadata but then they disappeared again. They have yet to reappear.

I think the story illustrates one of the main problems of metadata pretty nicely: everyone is convinced of their usefulness but not necessarily willing to add them if there is no immediate benefit for themselves. In this poll, I asked visitors if they use metadata a lot or find them completely irrelevant?

Using metadata in files

  • What are metadata? (47%, 82 Votes)
  • I sometimes use them (23%, 40 Votes)
  • I cannot be bothered to add or use metadata (15%, 27 Votes)
  • I rely heavily on metadata (15%, 26 Votes)

Total Voters: 175

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For those who wonder what metadata are, my page on PDF metadata is a good starting point to catch up a bit!

PrepressPete is tweeting

CtP engine down – we all get slightly nervous. Coffeemaker kaputt – everyone goes crazy…

November 2010

QR for president

This has been a QR code week. It started with my page on these codes suddenly appearing in the TOP 10 of the most popular pages of the site. Then I got a mail from What They Think about their latest report on this technology. Two days later I noticed in the newspaper some adverts from banks that use them. Yesterday I stumbled upon one in the Zoo, where it is used to provide visitors with more information about the construction works that have forced the animal keepers to temporarily relocate some animals.

Seeing all that QR stuff is a bit like with when you intend to buy something like a camera or an MP-3 player. Suddenly you notice people using those products just about everywhere. Fancy a red car? Mysteriously the streets now seem filled with them. It is odd how our perception sometimes acts like a Photoshop filter that sharpens one specific area and blurs all the rest.

October 2010

PrepressPete is tweeting

Rats, my money seems to disappear faster than white text set to overprint.

EPUB, here I come

Liz Castro was kind enough to send me a review copy of her latest book, EPUB Straight to the Point: Creating ebooks for the Apple iPad and other e-readers. It explains how to create ebooks in the standard EPUB format, paying special attention to a couple of popular applications that many people are already familiar with: Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign. The book also takes a closer look at the inner workings of an EPUB format file and shows you how to use a text editor to complete an EPUB file, including the creation of a cover and navigational table of contents. You can read my review of this book here.

September 2010

The poll: electronic publishing overtaking print?

To challenge my colleagues I put up a ‘Print Death Watch’ counter on a whiteboard in the office. The counter claims we have around 8 years left before magazines and newspapers will only be available electronically. So far few people seem to care much or could be bothered to disagree. So I’ve decided to put the question on the internets. How long do you think it will take before most popular magazines and newspapers are only available electronically? Use the poll to the right to give us your best estimate.

I am an avid reader of e-books, but I also enjoy and buy a lot of printed publications. I don’t particularly care for the ‘smell of paper’ (most inks actually stink) nor do I think the iPad and its like are the ultimate solutions for every type of publishing. Print pays my wages so I hope it still has a bright future ahead of it. It is, however, clear that the publishing business are going through some radical changes:

In July 2010, one of the largest booksellers in the USA announced that for the last three months, sales of books for its Kindle e-reader outnumbered sales of hardcover books. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos expects Kindle e-book unit sales to exceed paperback sales within 9 to 12 months.

IDPF president George Kerscher was a bit more prudent in his opening speech during the DB2010 conference, stating that “Exponential growth will put digital publishing on par with print in five years time”.

In September 2010 Arthur Sulzberger Jr from the New York Times Company was asked what he thought about the suggestion that the New York Times might print its last edition in 2015. Sulzberger said he saw no point in making such predictions and said all he could say was that “we will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD”.

Regardless of how fast things will change, J. MacFarlane from Easypress technologies summarized it pretty well during DB2010: “There will be three types of publishing companies: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what happened”. I guess the same applies to print companies and suppliers. Learn, anticipate, and adapt… or be prepared to go the way of the dinosaur.

When will most popular magazines and newspapers ONLY be available electronically?

  • Never (37%, 271 Votes)
  • In 6 years time (18%, 134 Votes)
  • In 10 years time (18%, 128 Votes)
  • In 3 years time (14%, 102 Votes)
  • In 20 years time (13%, 95 Votes)

Total Voters: 730

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Apple products shouldn’t be sold via mail order

In 1990, Guy Kawasaki wrote a book called ‘The Macintosh Way’ about what he had learned as an Apple product manager. The following paragraph made me chuckle: “… despite an Apple policy not to sell anything via mail order. (This policy was put into place because Apple had filed a number of lawsuits against dealers who were selling Apple hardware by mail. Apple’s legal contention was that Apple products require support and set-up and, therefore, shouldn’t be sold through the mail …” I guess things have changed slightly in the past 20 years!

August 2010

A cool one million

On Friday 20 August, around 11 o’clock in the evening, someone looked for the one-millionth time in 2010 at a page on this site. I would like to thank that anonymous person who, according to Google, most likely came from London and found using a Google query about editing PDF files. He looked at the relevant page for 53 seconds using Firefox before heading elsewhere.

PrepressPete is tweeting

One of the fat women in finishing kept ranting about ‘working her ass off’. I looked at it and said ‘Nah’. That is when the fight started.

The poll: using InDesign for multi-channel publishing

Every time I go to one of Adobe’s roadshows, they demonstrate how InDesign can be used for more than just print publications. Since I am quite fond of Indy, I also use it for creating on-screen presentations and manuals. I do wonder however how many people regularly export InDesign content to Dreamweaver. Adobe’s attempts to convince us that InDesign is a great authoring tool for Flash content also leave me scratching my head. It all looks fine with the well-prepared sample files used during those seminars but how many people actually work this way?

How much is Adobe InDesign being used for multi-channel publishing?

I asked people what they use InDesign for. Multiple answers were allowed and a thread on the B4print forums was used to share thoughts.

I use Adobe InDesign to create

  • print publications (PDF, PS) (61%, 190 Votes)
  • on-screen publications (PDF) (21%, 65 Votes)
  • ebooks (EPUB) (9%, 27 Votes)
  • web pages (HTML) (6%, 19 Votes)
  • interactive web content (Flash, SWF) (3%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 214

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Oops, my newspaper just crashed

With all the attention that Apple’s iPad is getting from the publishing industry, I couldn’t resist and bought one as soon as it was released in Belgium. Being an avid newspaper reader, the first app I installed was from De Standaard, a local newspaper. For 15 euros per month, the app allows you to download the complete content of the newspaper. You can browse through the layout or read the articles in a bigger text-optimized view. You can also navigate through the pictures of the day (similar to what the Boston Globe does) or load the latest news updates from their web site.

The jury is still out on whether I am going to ditch the printed paper and go for its electronic equivalent. One advantage of the printed newspaper is that it never crashes. Up to now the app of De Standaard crashes about twice a week and occasionally article windows refuse to close properly. Each time restarting the app is just a matter of pushing the home button and double-tapping the newspaper icon. It just proves that there is still some tweaking needed before the electronic experience will be flawless. On the other hand, there are no crumpled pages or issues with misregistration, hickeys, moiré, and ghosting with the iPad app!

You can find an article with my first impressions of the iPad on this page.

July 2010

PrepressPete is tweeting

Watched ‘Print Hard’ – about a bald macho printer who stops a turtlenecked terrorist from forcing the world to read everything on an iPad.

I’m late when it comes to late binding

A recent discussion on the PrintPlanet forums made me realize I never put any information about late binding on this site. I remember hearing about it for the first time about 10 or 12 years ago. A guy selling a competitive workflow kept rambling on about the advantages of late binding. I didn’t understand a word of what he said so I just kept nodding and going ‘Uhmm… mmm…mmm’. As soon as he left, I found out that my colleagues had no idea either but fortunately the web (or was it still CompuServe in those days?) came up with the answer.

Since this is an important aspect of modern prepress, I’ve added a  dedicated page discussing early and late-binding.

June 2010

PrepressPete is tweeting

Boss spent his time at IPEX in the Komori bar & staring at the SpeedMaster CX102. The only thing he learned is that he likes Pilsner Urquell.

The poll: How do you edit PDF files?

The page on how to edit PDF files is one of the most popular ones on this site. It brings up the question of which tools people actually use for editing PDFs.

There are lots of cheap or free utilities but I only listed the more prepress oriented professional solutions in the poll. Users discussed their preferences in this thread on the B4Print forums.

Which tool(s) do you use to edit PDF files?

  • Adobe Acrobat (43%, 109 Votes)
  • Pitstop Pro/Extreme (23%, 58 Votes)
  • I never edit PDFs (14%, 36 Votes)
  • Adobe Illustrator (13%, 33 Votes)
  • Another PDF editing app (8%, 19 Votes)
  • Infix PDF Editor (2%, 6 Votes)
  • Quite-a-box-of-tricks (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Callas pdfToolbox (2%, 4 Votes)
  • another Acrobat plug-in (0%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 262

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PrepressPete is tweeting

Had my first blue screen ever since upgrading to Windows 7 a few months back. Old habits are the most difficult to get rid off!

May 2010

PrepressPete is tweeting

Our phone company only wants to work with ‘green printers’ – pretty ridiculous since most phonebooks are dumped the day they are delivered.

The poll: Ready to upgrade to CS 5?

Adobe seems to stick pretty well to an 18-month upgrade cycle for their Creative Suite software. Having only recently upgraded to CS4, I am not exactly itching to upgrade once more. Some of the new Photoshop features are tempting, though.

CS Master Collection

Below are the results from this poll about everyone’s plans with CS5. Also check out this related thread on the B4print forum.

Upgrading to Adobe CS5

  • Done already (28%, 54 Votes)
  • Maybe later (27%, 53 Votes)
  • In the next 6 months (20%, 38 Votes)
  • I'll skip this release (15%, 28 Votes)
  • I don't use Create Suite (10%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 193

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PrepressPete is tweeting

I scrutinized a brochure for the iPad. It said ‘Designed in California, printed in China’. Somehow that didn’t surprise me at all.

Admiring typography in Lisbon

During a recent trip to Portugal, a few beautiful examples of typography caught my eye.

Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, Portugal
Bertrand’s bookshop

The signage at Bertrand’s Bookshop (‘livraria’ in Portuguese) is a nice example of this. The spacing between the V and R on the first line does seem a bit off, though. Check this page if you want to see some more samples.

PrepressPete is tweeting

Found a DVD with an early beta of QuarkXPress 9 in a pub near the expo center!!! Interested? My asking price has dropped to 5$….

April 2010

PrepressPete is tweeting

Remind me to never ever do a drinking contest with the press operators again. They seem to spend their working time in some kind of desert!

The poll: Is Adobe Acrobat crash-prone?

I have always been pretty happy with Acrobat 7 Professional. After upgrading to version 8, I quickly found out that this release was less stable and would crash frequently, at least on my systems. Initially, Acrobat 9 looked promising but meanwhile, I have the impression that it is also less reliable than version 7. I don’t understand why this is the case. Photoshop has always been rock-solid on any system it ran on. InDesign is pretty good as well. Why is Acrobat, which is essentially an elaborate document browser, less reliable than these complex editing apps? Weird!

I asked visitors about their experience with the various releases of Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Professional. The topic also gets discussed in this thread on the B4print forum.

How reliable is your copy of Adobe Acrobat?

  • Acro 9 is rock solid (24%, 91 Votes)
  • Acro 9 crashes regularly (21%, 81 Votes)
  • Acro 9 crashes sometimes (17%, 64 Votes)
  • Acro 7 crashes regularly (8%, 29 Votes)
  • Acro 8 is rock solid (7%, 28 Votes)
  • Acro 7 is rock solid (7%, 26 Votes)
  • Acro 8 crashes regularly (7%, 26 Votes)
  • Acro 8 crashes sometimes (5%, 21 Votes)
  • Acro 7 crashes sometimes (5%, 20 Votes)

Total Voters: 303

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PrepressPete is tweeting

CS5 is on its way. Dear Mr. Adobe, can you please also tell it to the 2 genius designers that still deliver Pagemaker files to us? Thanks!

White space – to the extreme

In page layout, white space refers to the blank area between characters or graphic regions. Last week I saw a magazine that made extreme use of this concept. In my copy, a signature that was only printed on one side got through and was used in finishing. In the first part of the magazine, there was a set of blank pages and obviously near the end, the same happened again.

It is not unusual to see printed matter with registration issues, a low-res image, or some problem with fonts. It is, however, the first time ever that I saw unprinted pages in a magazine. Maybe ‘NaturFoto’ were trying to improve their carbon footprint?

PrepressPete is tweeting

Global warming? The boss just told us our wages and prepress budget will remain frozen for the third year in a row. I’d love some warming!

March 2010

PrepressPete is tweeting

Wisdom from the PrintPlanet forums: A consultant is really just a dealer with a laid back approach.

Ereaders? No thanks, not yet!

The past few months I have been investigating ebook readers. I need a replacement for my 5-year-old Palm T3, on which I’ve read hundreds of books. Unfortunately, these devices aren’t exactly cheap and none of them can convince me to spend my money. Check my rant about ‘5 reasons not to buy an ereader – yet‘.

Sony PRS-600 Touch edition

Fortunately, new devices seem to show up every week. I have yet to try the Sony PRS-600 pictured above and obviously the Apple iPad is also something to look out for.

February 2010

The poll: a career in graphic arts

There are numerous movies in which the main character somehow goes back in time and gets the opportunity to restart his or her life. I asked forum visitors if, given the opportunity, they would once again go for a career in graphic arts or avoid it like the plague. Compare the poll results to those of early 2008, when I asked the same question.

Would you work in prepress again if you could do it all over?

  • Of course! (43%, 65 Votes)
  • No way! (34%, 51 Votes)
  • Maybe... (23%, 35 Votes)

Total Voters: 151

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PrepressPete is tweeting

Finally went to see ‘Avatar’ – it is so depressing that you never see newspapers or any other kind of print in science-fiction movies.

Every little bit helps

The January advertising earnings of this site have been donated to Médecins Sans Frontières, to support their efforts in Haiti.

Mac & Firefox are doing fine…

I had Photoshop open while staring at Google Analytics, so why not share some data just for fun? It is no surprise that is popular with Mac users. A lot of them are working in prepress and design. It is, however, interesting that FireFox has pulled ahead of Internet Explorer! I am surprised that Chrome is doing so well. January is also the first month in which this site got to 5000 page views on some working days.

Browser and OS statistics for during Januari 2010
OS & browser statistics for January 2010

… but Playboy isn’t

While waiting for my turn in the local barber shop, I read a few ‘articles’ from the Dutch version of Playboy. One of them seemed to be a reprint for which the pictures had been rescanned from an earlier copy. The woman in those pictures had an ugly zebra moire-pattern across her skin. It is amazing that Playboy seems to have dropped its standards so much that they accept such bad quality.

My barber caught me staring for an embarrassing amount of time at one of those pictures, so I deemed it better not to ask if I could borrow the copy to photograph the effect. You’ll have to buy a few issues yourself ‘out of professional interest’  🙂

PrepressPete is tweeting

JOY is having a back-up but not telling the sales idiot that you could recover the report that he once again ‘accidentally’ deleted.

Fun jokes from ‘Customers from hell’

The client horror stories that can be found at the ‘Customers from hell’ blog are mostly from web designers. There are however a number of print related fun stories on that site as well. Here are some of the highlights:

“We need a 4-color, 1 sheet picture menu. PICTURES ONLY, NO WORDS. It’s for the blind and hearing impaired”.

“Can you add an infinitesimal amount of red?”

After I sent a client a mockup with lorem ipsum as filler text: “It’s good but there is a weird language on the page. It will either need to be translated or removed”.

“We don’t like the font in the logo – could you use the one Microsoft use in their software…I think it’s called Arial. I think everyone likes that one – you see it everywhere”.

“Could we try a darker black?”

“Can you send that logo over in electron form, at the highest granularity you have”.

Prospective client: “$400 for a logo?! Why are you so expensive? My nephew has Photoshop—I can just get him to do it”.
Me: “Does your nephew have Microsoft Word?”
Prospective client: “Yes”.
Me: ” Then have him write you a novel while he’s at it”.

“Can you make the circles a little bit rounder?”

“Yes! I want all them, embossing, de-bossing, foil, gold ink, thick black card. I want it to be the most amazing and truely unique business card ever that people say WOW too”.

Client: “You see where you have a full stop at the end of the first sentence?”
Me: “Yes”.
Client: “Can you change it to a comma?”
Me: “Er, well I can, but you should put a full stop at the end of a sentence”.
Client: “Oh, that grammar stuff is very old fashioned”.

“Can you make it red, but not red, you know? And maybe try a primary color, like green”.

“That’s not Quark red. I want Quark red”.

Client: “You’re fired”.
Me: “Why?”
Client: “You printed it upside-down”.
Me: “You’re holding the board upside-down”.

Client [when briefing a designer]: “I am not going to tell you anything, because I don’t want to limit your creativity”.

“Can you make the font more dangerous?”

“Can you please put page numbers on the two-sided postcard? I’m not sure people will know how to get to the other side”.

“No, I said that everything should be in all caps. That’s how important the message is”.

“Please remove the bold styling from the table headers. It will save ink”.

Client: “I want a poster that’s bigger then a piece of printer paper”.
Me: “Well, a lot of people also get 11 by 17 posters made up”.
Client: “How big is that?”
Me: “11 inches by 17 inches”.
Client: “Yes, but how big is it?”

“The proof just has too much purple. Can you just pull out some of the purple ink? Like 2%?”

I sent a client the first draft of an 8pp brochure with Lorem Ipsum filling in for the text I hadn’t yet been supplied. The feedback I received the next day was something along the lines of: “I don’t think we should put the text in French. It might seem a bit elitist to people who can’t read it. Otherwise all looks fine…”

Client: “We’d like to have the background color a bit lighter.”
Me: “The background color is already white #ffffff.”
Client: “Is there anything lighter than that?”

Me: “We can’t print this; this image is really low resolution, even for a 72 dpi thing off the web. It’s literally 300 pixels and we are printing it on a 6×9 inch postcard.”
Boss: “It’s fine, just go with it.”
Me: “But we are a commercial printer—if our own ads look like crap, why should anyone hire us?”
Boss: “We just have opposing philosophies.”

Could we print the brochure in RGB? You know, it would be cheaper if we use one color less…

All these drawings about dinosaurs… Why can’t we have photos?

I really like the gradient – going from red to yellow – but I don’t like orange. Can you make it go through another color?

January 2010

The poll: Using XPS

Looking at recent stats of this site, I noticed a sharp increase in the popularity of my page on the XPS file format. XPS, in case you forgot, is the Microsoft alternative to PDF. Maybe the interest has to do with the success of Windows 7, which ships with tools for creating and viewing XPS files. Global Graphics, who worked with Microsoft to develop this standard, is hoping XPS will increasingly be used in the business world for sharing print-ready documents. That would mean people will also want to print such files on digital presses or maybe even using offset. In prepress, I have yet to encounter my first XPS file or meet someone who actually uses XPS instead of (or next to) PDF. The poll asked people if they had ever created or received XPS files. That was also discussed in this thread on the B4print forums.

How much time do you spend in front of a computer screen each day?

  • 8 to 10 hours (32%, 169 Votes)
  • > 10 hours (28%, 148 Votes)
  • 6 to 8 hours (21%, 112 Votes)
  • 4 to 6 hours (11%, 58 Votes)
  • < 4 hours (8%, 40 Votes)

Total Voters: 524

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Posters at ‘Het huis van Alijn’

The print shop had vanished in this museum when I visited it during the Christmas break. Fortunately there was still a lot of printed matter from the 1920’s to be seen. It isn’t just the technology that was different in that age, but also the mindset. Take the card shown below, which was sold to tourists in those days. Lift the boys dress and you will not only see a series of pictures from the city of Ghent, Belgium but also his bum. I think you’d have trouble getting this printed and sold these days!

Check my page about Het huis van Alijn for some colorful examples of posters from the early 20th century.

A picture book for Gent, on display at Het Huis van Alijn, a history museum in Ghent, Belgium

30 years of prepress innovation

DJ at posted an interesting look back at the 10 most important prepress innovations of the past 30 years.

Mac icons

What I find interesting is that some technologies didn’t make it to that list, even though they have been around for quite some time and been hyped by many. JDF is a prime example. It has up to now been a technology driven by a few big vendors, instead of being pushed forward by a quick adoption rate by printers and premedia companies. Variable data processing is another example. Sure it exists and companies are making money using the technology but this hasn’t yet become the game changer that many people thought it would be. There are other innovations that are simply kept a closely guarded secret. The VistaPrint secret sauce falls in that category. Anyway – go read DJ’s list and if you cannot get enough of it, browse through this site’s history of prepress.

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