Preflighting is the preparation of a file for a specific use, such as for printing on the desktop, commercial printing, or use on the Web. In the case of PDF files, this could be any of these uses, so it is important to first identify the purpose for which your original and PDF files will be used. There are two types of preflight: content and technical.

  • Content preflight, where you check to make sure all the components are present, is the more critical of the two for the document creator to perform, because only the document creator can supply the proper pieces to the document.

  • In technical preflight, you check for items such as file format, resolutions , and color space conversions. You can change some technical items, such as file format, along the way in a workflow, although this can be time consuming and therefore costly.

You should note that once you ve converted a native document file into a PDF, editing is often an even more costly and time-consuming process than working with native document files. So, it is in your best interest to perform complete content and technical preflight on your document prior to creating PDF files.

Content Preflight

As mentioned previously, content preflighting involves checking to make sure all the major components of a file are present. Table 2.7 is a checklist of items to look for and key concerns when performing a content preflight on a page layout document before generating the PostScript file used for creating a PDF.

Table 2.7: Content Preflight Items and Issues

Preflight Item


Page layout document

Most recent version

High-quality external graphics

Links established and updated

Font files

All used fonts currently active

Font style assignments

All styles should be set to Plain.

Color assignments

Colors should be properly assigned for the end use: RGB for the Web, CMYK for desktop printing, and spot and CMYK for commercial printing.


Any item that is to bleed off the page must be extended past the trim line of the document.

Composite proof

To check for accurate placement of document components and bleeds

Color-separated proof

Critical for commercial printing to check for proper spot and process color assignments

If any of these items are missing or incorrect, the final PDF will have missing pieces and/or be incorrect.


Remember that you cannot tell by looking at your monitor if your graphics are properly linked or if your fonts are properly formatted.

Technical Preflight

In performing a technical preflight, you focus on the more technical aspects of your documents, such as file format and resolution, which initially may be less obvious but may ultimately have a large impact on the quality of your final PDF document. Table 2.8 is a checklist of some of the more important technical items to address and key concerns when performing a technical preflight on a page layout document prior to generating a PostScript file for creating a PDF.

Table 2.8: Technical Preflight Items and Issues



Graphics file format

File format should be consistent with the end use: TIFF and EPS for prepress, GIF and JPEG for the Web.

Image resolutions

Image resolution should be appropriate for the end use: 200 “400 ppi (depending upon the print lpi) for commercial printing, 200 ppi for desktop business printing, and 72 “96 ppi for the Web.

Color gamut conversions

Match image color space with end use. Web = RGB and print = CMYK.

Font architecture

Use the font types that are most compatible with the output device. TrueType is fine for most low-resolution , non-PostScript business uses. PostScript fonts are preferred for commercial print and especially PDF/X compliant workflow uses.

Preflight Tools

While you can perform preflighting manually, using preflighting tools allows you to be more consistent, work faster, and make fewer mistakes. There are typically two categories of preflight tools: those built into page layout applications and dedicated preflight tools.

Built-in Preflight Tools

QuarkXPress, InDesign, and other page layout applications usually supply some level of preflight support. Table 2.9 shows some of the common page layout applications and their preflight tools.

Table 2.9: Page Layout Applications and Their Preflight Tools





Font Usage

Check for font activity and formatting.


Graphic Usage

Check for graphic links and formats.


Collect For Output

Gather document components: document, fonts, and graphics.


Preflight Utility

Check for font and graphics usage as well as links and formats.


Package Utility

Collect and package document, fonts, and graphics.


Save For Service Provider

Check for font and graphic usage as well as collect these items.


Pack & Go

Gather fonts and graphics into a custom package.

These application-based tools provide varying levels of sophistication and reliability. I would rank InDesign to be the king of the hill (see Figure 2.15), with Quark and Microsoft Publisher tied for second, and PageMaker a distant fourth. At a minimum you should use the tools provided by your page layout application to help you perform your preflight chores. However, if you create and therefore preflight a great many documents, you will likely find that using a dedicated preflight utility will be well worth the time it takes to learn and the expense of the purchase.

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Figure 2.15: InDesign preflight tools: The Preflight utility provides for basic preflighting; the Package tool provides a collection of document components.

Dedicated Preflight Tools

I have discussed at some length using the right tool for the right job. The same rule applies to preflighting. If you want consistent high-quality, fast, and full-featured preflight, get a dedicated preflight tool. The top of the line when it comes to preflighting is Markzware. Markzware has a variety of single-station, network, and even web-based preflight tools and options. Their main tool, called FlightCheck, comes in two flavors ”Collect and Classic (Figure 2.16) ”and their network/web tool is called MarkzScout. Extensis also offers a competent set of preflight tools called Collect, Preflight Pro, and Print Ready.

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Figure 2.16: Markzware FlightCheck Classic and Collect provide professional preflighting and file organization and collection capabilities.

The various tools provide increasingly sophisticated capabilities, with the topdrawer products such as Markzware s Classic and Extensis Print Ready providing not only professional-quality preflight but interactive tools that provide solutions and aids to fixing problems, as well as tools for batching files and streamlining preflight workflow. These tools will inspect and report on all aspects of your document, including file type info ; page geometry and setup; print settings; font usage, types, and problems; color space and assignment evaluation; and complete graphics evaluation. Not only are the preflighting capabilities of a tool such as FlightCheck better than those included in the page layout applications, but the collection components of the tools are far faster and easier and do a more consistent job. I have used FlightCheck for years and wouldn t let my documents leave home without it!

If you send your document and/or PDF files out to a printing company, they will perform their own preflight analysis of your file. So you might as well perform your own as well, saving you the time, expense, and embarrassment of having someone else finding the problems, or worse , risking the possibility that no one will find the problems and your file contains errors.


Part III of this book covers preflighting and editing the PDF files themselves . I want to emphasize here, however, that you will save yourself much time, energy, effort, and money if you perform the preflighting of your document before creating your PDF files.

If you follow the recommendations in this chapter about document construction, font use, and file preparation and preflighting, you will have a complete document, which will be ready for you to convert into a PostScript file and then into a PDF. In the next two chapters we will tackle these next steps.

For a peek at Taz s Document Construction Guidelines and Taz s Top Ten File Prep Tips, visit

Acrobat 6 and PDF Solutions
Acrobat 6 and PDF Solutions
ISBN: 0782142737
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 102 © 2008-2017.
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