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Dear PDF/A Community,
This year there are two events that are especially prominent for me personally: one was the very successful 1st International PDF/A Conference conducted on April 10-11, the other is the drupa being held from May 29 to June 11 in Düsseldorf – one of the largest fairs in the world and rightfully designated as the Mecca of the print and communications branch.
Thanks to the increasingly efficient and productive equipment for digital and digitally controlled communications, more documents are being produced and distributed today than ever before. During a quiet moment one might contemplate the question: how will the technology that is currently lighting up our eyes be viewed in 10 or 20 years? Will todays technology be as attractive in the future as a WordStar or Lotus 123 file on a floppy disk is today?
Come by the PDF/A Competence Center booth at the drupa, in Hall 7 in the drupa innovation parc, if you would like to discuss this topic more – I would be more than pleased to greet you there!
PDF/A Competence Center
More than 200 people attended the 1st International PDF/A Conference at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. They were presented with a comprehensive program, split into three tracks based on different prerequisites and areas of focus. The feedback from the attendees during and after the various presentations confirmed that the conference achieved the demanding level that the organizers were aiming for.
Attendees came from almost all European countries, and there were even some who traveled from other continents. They were offered presentations from entry-level knowledge of PDF/A up to sessions for advanced and technically oriented participants. There was also an exhibition with 17 companies demonstrating their products that support PDF/A. A series of very well received user case studies demonstrated that this new format for long-term archiving has developed far past the planning phase in many companies. Stephen Levenson from the US District Court, one of the initiators of the PDF/A movement, summarized his impression of the conference with Thank you for inviting me to the conference. It was the best I ever attended. It was a pleasure to spend time and to get to meet you.
The drupa, with some 300000 visitors, is one of the largest IT fairs in the world. The high number of attendees is due in part to a large international audience that travels from the far reaches of the globe to attend the event each year. As a follow-up to the successful PDF/A Conference in Amsterdam this April, the PDF/A Competence Center will be at the drupa to again meet new visitors from countries that they have not yet been in contact with.
Although in the past the drupa was almost entirely focused on offset printing, the last drupa in 2004 enjoyed an increased influence from digital printing amongst exhibitors. Since digital print relies on both system and end-user software products, software suppliers could be found at numerous points in the exhibition area at the last drupa. Last time around, the drupa reacted to this trend by placing an additional tent in the middle of the exhibition area – the drupa innovation parc – in which a large number of software product suppliers presented themselves without being integrated in the full drupa internal structure, like the fair catalogue. The complete integration of these exhibitors will be achieved during the current drupa in 2008: the drupa innovation parc (dip) has its own hall in the middle of the exhibition area, Hall 7. Since this is also the entrance area for the majority of visitors to the fair, the exhibition area cant be missed and will be traversed by virtually all attendees. The exhibition area in the dip and the number of exhibitors have increased so dramatically that the drupa innovation parc organizers have divided the area into 6 theme-related sections. Document management has been allocated its own theme park, the document management parc. PDF/A will be strongly represented here: in addition to the PDF/A Competence Center itself, the PDF/A Competence Center members callas, Compart and GMC will have their own booths, emphasizing the importance of PDF/A for the print media industry.
Due to the thematic orientation of drupa to print output, the focus for the PDF/A Competence Center booth is also given: here it is not so much the document input area of companies, in which received documents are digitalized through scanning (document input processing), but rather the editing and processing of PDF/A documents that are created or prepared internally using appropriate software products (document output processing). Ensuring that before they leave your company, the documents you create in-house are also correctly prepared for long-term archiving in your own archives, will be the major theme for the PDF/A Competence Center at the drupa.
Not too long ago it seemed absolutely sufficient to just have the letters A through Z, the digits 0 through 9 and a couple of punctuation marks for coding text. And today many still assume that for coding colour information nothing else is needed but three numbers for the red, green and blue in RGB. Both approaches lack a reasonably powerful coding system as a reference. By now few will challenge the relevance of Unicode for storing and exchanging text. With regard to colour though this hasnt gotten around in the same way: What Unicode is for text, the International Color Consortium from 1993 onward has established for colour in the form of the ICC architecture. The roots thereof though go back to the work of the Commission International de léclairage (CIE) since the nineteen-twenties.
Regardless whether ICC profiles or a (compatible) model preceding ICC, notably CalGray and CalRGB, are used: without them an RGB value would, well, just an RGB value, that from output device to output device will produce a more or less similar appearance. You all know about this from the on-board entertainment systems in aeroplanes: some passengers see a greenish-pale actor: probably seasick. The other monitor across the aisle shows his face rather pinkish, as if in the middle of a booze-up. While developing the PDF/A standard it was agreed without hesitation that with regard to colour, consistency and predictability are of utmost importance. Accordingly only CIE or ICC based colour information is allowed. And not only because seasickness and heavy drinking are different.
Especially in the office world though hardly anyone explicitly or knowingly is dealing with ICC profiles – an office PDF (as well as the document it originated from) frequently just use DeviceRGB (which comes as just three number values without any reference to an ICC profile or CIE based colour space). In addition, most monitors or colour printers are neither calibrated nor configured with an adequate ICC profile. Why bother putting the ICC profile inside the document? And above all: what to do, if such files are to be archived as PDF/A?
From a puristic point of view it would be necessary to go to the desk of the person who created the document and measure the monitor such that an ICC profile can be created from the measurements, which could then be incorporated into the PDF/A to be archived. That of course would be too removed from reality, and is neither economically justifiable nor reasonable. Rather it is acceptable to use the average office ICC profile as a sufficient proxy for todays office environments – the sRGB profile is such a profile and is readily available. Certain other ICC profiles, like the often found Generic RGB, are usually unacceptable proxies: they are sometimes shipped with software as a placeholder in case no proper ICC profile is available.
But how are things in other areas like for example medical technology? Here it is very important to archive X-rays or CRTs in exactly the way that guarantees they can at any point in time (not only) colour-wise be reproduced consistently and predictably. In this area already the original X-ray or CRT should contain appropriate CIE or ICC based information. In case you are already wondering what a black and white X-ray has to do with colour: neither black nor white nor grey are as colourless as they may seem at first glance. Or why do we speak of snow white, floral white, antique white, or even off-white? Just put pieces from different types of white paper next to each other! Anyway, what is even more important especially for X-rays are the nuances – whether gaudy colours or just grayscale information: smaller and not so small differences between areas of different colour intensity and brightness in most cases contribute to a much higher degree to visual information than colour per se. And this applies not only to X-rays.
With this in mind: Even for documents like a digitally received fax where hardly anything could be less relevant than colour, PDF/A requires all use of colour (including just black) to be based on CIE or ICC colour space information. That does not lead to any harm for the digitally received fax, and at the same time consistent, simple and easy to implement rules apply for the creation and – often overlooked but no less important – the reproduction of documents archived as PDF/A. Or do you switch off Unicode just because you once in a while have a text which happens to only make use of A Z, 0 9 and a punctuation mark or two?
Olaf Drümmer, President of callas software:
callas software is a core PDF development company and has been a partner of Adobe – the inventor of PDF format – for years, assisting with the development of technology for validating and correcting PDF files. The validation of PDF/A, which is a function of the Preflight module in Adobe Acrobat Professional, was developed by callas software and is often used as the final verification of PDF/A conformance.
callas software has their roots in the printing industry, where the need for an automatic verification and preparation of PDF files already existed in the second half of the 1990s. callas software brought their extensive experience attained in this area into the creation of international standards for PDF – firstly PDF/X for transmitting print documents, and more recently PDF/A for long-term archiving and PDF/E for engineering files. callas software is currently involved in the standardization of PDF itself – as ISO 32000 – in addition to the PDF/VT standard for variable data print and printing transactions. An active membership in numerous organizations and associations, for example the European Color Initiative, Gent PDF Workgroup, PDFX-ready, in addition to the PDF/A Competence Center, signifies our own conception that it is more important to design the world for tomorrow than it is to simply complain in the future about past errors and misjudgments.
The validation and correction technology from callas software is based on a consequent and detailed analysis, in which both the PDF file as well as all data contained within it – e.g. fonts or ICC profiles – are always fully examined. Only so can it be determined if a PDF can be successfully and properly processed or whether it completely conforms to an ISO standard like PDF/A. Further to the detailed validation of PDF, an exceptionally high performance and support for the most important hardware platforms are deciding features of the PDF technology from callas software.
In addition to Adobe, companies like Xerox, HP, Mitsubishi and Quark, as well as numerous providers of DMS and archiving solutions, are technology partners of callas software. Our products – especially pdfaPilot and pdfToolbox – can always be found where customers place a high value on reliability, processing speed, and flexible integration.