The history of JDF

This page provides a brief overview of the evolution of JDF.

The early years

JDF was not the first attempt to define a standard for exchanging job-related data between graphic applications. Two early attempts which met very limited success were Adobe Open and Agfa Mainstream.

Adobe had more success with PJTF, the Portable Job Ticket Format. It is covered in more detail on this page. This file format was adopted by Agfa in their Apogee system and by Creo in early versions of Prinergy. PJTF was not really an exchange format but more an attempt to let prepress systems use the same internal file format. Because the standard was fairly loosely defined, it was never possible to exchange Agfa and Creo PJTF files.

The most popular precursor was PPF (Print Production Format). This file format was originally developed by Heidelberg in 1993. Two years later the further development of the standard was handed over to the CIP3 organization which initially had 15 members, including industry heavyweights such as Adobe, Agfa and Man-Roland. Most people refer to PPF files as CIP3 files. A PPF file is is job ticket that can be used by printing and finishing equipment. It contains some basic administrative data (job ID & job name) as well as ink zone presetting preview files and/or data on how to cut, fold or bind sheets. Internally the PPF file format is based on PostScript. Version 3.1 which was published in 1999 is still in use by thousands of printing companies worldwide, mainly for presetting ink key data.

1999: The birth of JDF

In 1999 the same four players that had promoted PPF (MAN Roland, Heidelberg, Adobe and Agfa) got together again to work on a new initiative. They perceived the need for a new standard which would:

  • cover all processes related to printing.
  • go beyond the scope of PJTF and PPF.
  • be based on XML instead of PostScript, making it easier to access and understand such files as well as making it easier to use existing development tools.

This new standard was named JDF, which stands for Job Definition Format.

2000: Work is handed over to CIP3

Since the success of any standard is determined by its acceptance in the marketplace, the decision was made to make the CIP3 organisation responsible for the future development and promotion of JDF. This took place in July 2000 and CIP3 rebaptised itself as CIP4. Their website can be found at www.cip4.org.

The JDF 1.0 specs were released in April 2001. Even though JDF got enormous coverage in the trade press, only a few early adopters jumped on the bandwagon. Users, as well as vendors, seemed reluctant to invest heavily in the new standard.

2002: JDF 1.1

The 1.1 specs were released in April 2002. The specs of a minor update (revision 1.1 A) were published in September 2002.

2004: The JDF-drupa

The drupa trade show (May 2004) was used to release the JDF 1.2 specifications. These specs included 650 improvements, clarifications, deletions and modifications to the standard. There were a number of major changes in the specs, making it the first really “mature” version of JDF. The 2004 drupa show is often called the JDF-drupa even though the standard was only in active at a handful of printing companies. A lot of vendors were showcasing early releases of their JDF-enabled software or gathering customer feedback for future developments.

In 2004, a number of vendors, led by Creo, formed an independent organization called NGP (Networked Graphic Production). This alliance which grew to around 50 print industry vendors focused on using open-file standards like JDF to automate the entire print production process from idea to delivery. In essence the members wanted to speed up the development of automation solutions by working with a limited number of companies on a subset (a limited part of the full command set) of JDF. Next to technical considerations, the marketing potential of such an initiative most likely also played a role in its foundation and adoption.

2005: ICS & JDF 1.3

CIP4 published the first ICS (Interoperability Conformance Specification) documents in January 2005. ICS documents provide guidelines to suppliers on how to improve connectivity and interoperability of their products using a subset of JDF. Each ICS defines a set of requirements for one specific type of connectivity (e.g. MIS to a prepress workflow system).

JDF 1.3 was published in November 2005. This is the standard that most developers are currently trying to support.

2006: Launch of a formal certification program

In 2006, CIP4 decided to let IPA/GATF handle the certification of ICS-compliancy. The first vendors that submit products for certification are Global Graphics (Harlequin RIP), Kodak (Preps & Pandora), Heidelberg (Signa Station & Metadimension) and Dynagram (Dynastrip).

In September 2007 all ICS-documents were updated to incorporate JDF 1.3. Among the first products to get certified according to the new specs is Agfa’s ApogeeX workflow.

2008: PrintTalk 1.3 and JDF 1.4

In January 2008 CIP4 and NGP announced that the functions of NGP would converge into CIP4. The same month 5 new ICS documents were published.

PrintTalk is a specification for exchanging data between customer systems, web-to-print eCommerce systems, and print estimating, scheduling and MIS systems. Work on this standard started in the late 90’s. In 2005 the decision was made to let CIP4 oversee the development of the standard and ensure that it is kept in sync with JDF.  PrintTalk 1.3 was announced in March 2008. It is based on JDF 1.3. In essence this means that we now have JDF as a standard for plate making, printing and finishing and a matching standard, PrintTalk, for more upstream processes such as content creation and e-commerce. Alongside the PrintTalk 1.3 specifications, CIP4 also released a set of matching ICS documents that provide vendors with  guidelines on the minimum feature set that their products need to cover to interoperate with other systems.

Most people expected JDF 1.4 to be made available at drupa 2008 but this did not happen. CIP4 released the 1.4 specs for review on June 20th, allowing everyone to provide feedback for 120 days. This didn’t stop industry veteran Rick Littrell from publicly wondering ‘ Is JDF dead?’ in a video posted in October.

The final JDF 1.4 specs were published in November 2008.

2009: 500 pairings in the JDF Interoperability Matrix

Described in the press release as ‘a milestone in industry operability’, CIP4 announced in June 2009 that there were now 500 pairs of applications that can be connected using JDF.

Meanwhile work has started on JDF 1.4a, a minor update of the specification which will include some improvements in naming conventions.

2013: JDF 1.5

In March version 1.5 of the JDF specifications is published. It includes further improvements for digital printing and web-to-print (by including PrintTalk into the protocol). One main discussion point on the regular meetings – the simplification of the standard – is not tackled.

15 May 2015

One response to “The history of JDF”

  1. mp says:

    JDF is an excellent technology to integrate a printing house. But unfortunately printing houses cannot do that by themselves. So it isn’t possible to employee a software engineer or student and say: “Could you integrate the press to our self made application please….”
    Actually that shouldn’t be that problem because communication just is based on XML, http and optionally MIME packages. To make software developers familiar to JDF / JMF there is a website jdf4you.org to achieve this.

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