PDF/X-1 – a (very) slowly emerging standard
To solve the reliability issue, a consortium of prepress companies got together and released the PDF/X-1 standard in 1998. PDF/X-1 is based on the PDF 1.2 file specifications but it is a very well defined description of what a PDF file should look like to allow for blind transfers. A PDF/X-1 file is a file in which you are sure that all fonts are included, all high-res images are embedded, and so on.
Although PDF/X-1 is based on PDF 1.2, a number of extra operators were added. They are described in Adobe technote 5188 and include:
- the possibility to embed extra data like copydot files
- support for ICC-based colors
- the definition of a bleed, trim and art-box
- a key that documents whether the file has already been trapped.
PDF 1.3 – Listening to prepress needs
Acrobat 4, internally known as ‘Stout’ within Adobe, was launched in April 1999. It brought us PDF 1.3. The new PDF specs included support for:
- 2-byte CID fonts
- OPI 2.0 specifications
- a new color space called DeviceN to improve support for spot colors
- smooth shading, a technology that allows for efficient and very smooth blends (transitions from one color or tint to another).
Acrobat itself also had its fair share of novelties, including:
- support for page sizes up to 5080 x 5080 mm, up from 1143 x 1143 mm
- a series of preset configurations in Acrobat Distiller, making it easier to create valid PDF-files.
- a very confusing change of names: the former Acrobat Exchange was renamed to Acrobat, which also happens to be the name of the entire software suite.
- easy integration in Microsoft Office.
The initial version of Acrobat 4, aptly numbered 4.0, contained quite a lot of bugs that limited the usefulness of the software for prepress purposes. Users got quite upset when Adobe tried to charge for the bugfix, Acrobat 4.05. Luckily Adobe listened to its users and send a free copy to registered users (We did have to wait 4 months or so for it in Europe).
By the time Acrobat 4.05 was released, it could hardly be disputed that PDF had become an accepted file format for information exchange. More that 100 million copies of Acrobat Reader had been downloaded from the web. In prepress, few people still doubted the usefulness of PDF for file exchange, troubleshooting, and/or soft-proofing.