Convert a print file to a PDF
If your application does not yet offer support for PDF, you need extra software. This software can convert a printfile (usually a PostScript file) to a PDF file. Some applications acts as a dummy printers, intercept the output of an application and directly convert the data to a PDF.
Below is an overview of some of the solutions that are available on the market. Some of them are perfectly usable for prepress, like
- Acrobat Distiller (part of Adobe Acrobat)
Acrobat Distiller is a separate application that can convert PostScript files into PDF-files. In many ways it resembles a RIP which, instead of writing a bitmap pattern to an imagesetter, writes the resulting PDF file to a disk. Distiller is part of the Adobe Acrobat package. It is available for Mac, PCs and some UNIX flavours.
- Adobe Normalizer
The Adobe Normalizer is a library with Distiller-like functionality that is sold to graphic arts manufacturers who want to create a complete PDF-based workflow solution. There are several products that use this technology, including Agfa Apogee, Kodak Prinergy, Screen Trueflow and Fujifilm XMF. Since Normalizer is a library, the implementation of each vendor can be different. All of these solutions are expensive prepress systems that can do a lot more than just create PDF files. Their functionality goes far beyond the scope of this page. Some, including Agfa & Kodak, also sells a more limited version of their workflow that specifically targets medium size design agencies.
- Jaws PDF Creator
This is a commercial equivalent to Acrobat Distiller, created by Jaws, a subsidiary of Global Graphics. The same technology is also used in QuarkXPress 6&7. I have never used PDF Creator myself. Reviews I read about it seem to indicate that it is a very interesting product for office use but slightly less optimized for prepress use than Acrobat.
Other solutions are more geared towards home or office use. Among these are:
Ghostscript is a freely available PostScript RIP created by Alladin Systems. It can also be used to view or print PDF files but better still: it can even export to a PDF file. Ghostscript is available for Macs, PCs and UNIX.
Ghostscript is mainly used in the Soho market as well as in educational environments. I do not think it is suitable for prepress use but I don’t really know much about it. An often heard complaint about Ghostscript is that it is not really good at handling fonts: Text in Ghostscript PDF files is not displayed as beautiful as it is in Acrobat PDF files.
- various PDF printerdrivers
- PrintToPDF is a shareware Macintosh printer driver that creates PDF files. PrintToPDF is not as powerful as Acrobat, but it creates simple PDFs for a much lower price ($20). It can be downloaded from the web site of Jim Walker. I have not tried this little application yet but it is a safe assumption that it is not really meant for prepress use.
- Similar tools also exist for PCs.
- various tools to convert native file formats to PDF. The majority of these focus on popular file formats such a the Doc files created by Microsoft Word.
- on-line PDF services.
Use an on-line tool that converts a document to a PDF
For some web services you do not need to create a print file: simply upload the source document to the site and it will convert it to a PDF file. An example of this is Adobe’s own web service. These aren’t services that focus on creating high quality print-ready PDF files but if you received a native file and don’t own the matching application, it can be a solution.