Why won’t my printer take my Publisher file?

To people outside of the printing trade, Microsoft Publisher appears to be a price-competitive alternative to layout software such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress, without the training required to use that software. However, from a print and design standpoint, Publisher is often seen as a nuisance and source of frustration.

Years ago, as a prepress operator at a service bureau, I would often get requests to prepare Publisher files for film or plates for clients (sent by their printers as soon as they heard the word “Publisher”). My employer was one of a select few that would accept Publisher files, and while we would output the artwork to film or plates, it was done on several conditions – the main condition being a handling fee of 50% of the total.

With the software given nicknames such as “Punisher” or “Rubbisher”, old colleagues who would load a client’s file only to realise it was a Publisher file would groan with frustration, normally followed by the words “I hope they supplied a PDF as well”.

So why does Publisher have this reputation? What has it done to deserve such a bad name among commercial printers? Does it really deserve this infamy or is it all hyperbole?

Reasons that many commercial printers will not accept Publisher files are:

  • Don’t have Publisher or the Windows OS;
  • Their staff are unskilled in Publisher;
  • The difficulties associated with earlier versions of Publisher;
  • Issues within the client’s artwork due to inexperience.

Software and Hardware

In a country where English is the first language spoken, it is most likely that commercial printers will use the Adobe Creative Suite on an Apple Macintosh for the production of their artwork. This means that Publisher files cannot be accepted as the software is not made for the Apple Macintosh. This is where many commercial printers will stop and say that they require press-ready PDF artwork instead.

For the remaining printers that do have Windows OS machines, these machines are not necessarily in the artroom and used for other purposes (e.g. tied into the platesetter software, for their colour laser copier, or elsewhere in the building such as estimating, sales… somewhere outside of the art department).

In my experience, I’ve found that it isn’t the Art department that claims to be able to accept Publisher files, but a Salesperson who does not want to disappoint clients by turning away artwork created using Publisher. In this situation, the salesperson loads a copy of Publisher onto a sales computer that uses a Windows OS, and then declares that the company can accept Publisher files. This does not necessarily mean that the art department can accept Publisher files, nor are they trained to use Publisher.

If a printer does have a dedicated Windows OS machine for client supplied artwork from Windows OS devices, it is also likely that the art department staff won’t be as proficient in Publisher as they would their regular design software such as InDesign. So while they may be able to open a Publisher file, if there are issues (e.g. missing fonts, reflow) or changes required, prepress operators may struggle.

It is worth noting that this issue is not limited to Publisher, but other software typically seen on the Windows OS such as Microsoft Word, Corel Draw, Autodesk AutoCAD, etc. In these instances, the supply of PDF artwork created by the client is an acceptable solution.

Print-skills of Publisher users vs commercial printers

Choosing my words very carefully, Publisher is a general consumer product aimed at making designs that would be difficult to do using Microsoft Word or Excel. Examples would be business cards, invites, DL flyers. But, just as a screwdriver can hammer in a nail, so too can Publisher create artwork for larger projects such as books, magazines, etc.

This is where problems normally arise, because while users may be able to create more complicated artwork, they may not be aware of the nuances of printing such as bleeds, crossovers, or binding considerations. There are typically hand-over issues as well, such as missing fonts and links.

Put simply, Publisher is not used by print professionals with industry experience that typically supply press-ready files. Instead, Publisher is largely used by the general public – people who would be unfamiliar with print procedures. The likelihood of either time-consuming or cost-creating complications arising from handling Publisher files is greater than accepting press-ready files from experienced designers.

Finished artwork vs Layout artwork

Prepress departments of commercial printers usually expect two kinds of files to process for print – Finished artwork or Layout artwork.

Finished artwork is artwork that the client has created and it expects the artwork to print exactly as it was submitted, whereas Layout artwork is artwork that the client has created but expects the printer to manipulate the artwork to varying degrees… anywhere from reformatting completely to adjusting artwork to fulfil specific criteria (e.g. fit a formeshape).

Files supplied in publisher would tend to fit into the Finished artwork category, whereas files supplied in word would be more likely to be Layout artwork.

Legacy of difficulty

Until the release of Microsoft Publisher 2010, the software had various issues when attempting to make the artwork useable for print production, such as colour-space issues, bleed issues, reflow when making PDFs. Like any other software, Publisher has evolved and the PDF creating functions for commercial printers have definitely improved. Nevertheless, bad previous experiences with the software are enough reason for printers to avoid the risks associated with handling Publisher files.

Technical Reasons

Printing to a home desktop printer is normally an easy process of pressing the print button and making sure the printer settings are correct. In a commercial printing business, it is a little more complicated. Whether printed offset or digital, artwork is usually converted into PDFs and then transferred to RIP (Raster Image Processor) software, where artwork undergoes procedures not seen on a home printer, such as:

  • Page imposition
  • Colour trapping
  • Colour management
  • Output settings (e.g. colour separation, line screen ruling, etc)

So what do I do?

No printer wants to turn away work, but when faced with artwork submitted as a publisher file, that is what many of them do. However, I feel the artwork can be handled so long as good communication exists between the client and the art department.

  • If a printer insists on supplying PDFs, supply some test PDFs first to make sure that the files are appropriate for the printer’s purposes, and if not, ask the questions as to what is going wrong and what can be done.
  • If you find a printer that does accept publisher files, make sure to use the “pack and go” wizard:  rather than providing the printer with the publisher file alone.
  • Patience and Perseverance is required from both the client and the printer.
  • If a printer suggests using InDesign instead of Publisher, be aware that for people working outside of the printing industry, InDesign has a steep learning curve. If the software is going to be used once a year to publish a newsletter or yearbook, perhaps keep using Publisher, but make sure you maintain good communication with the art department of the Printer so that any issues that arise are dealt with early on.
  • Markzware does make software for converting Publisher files to InDesign, but do not expect a flawless conversion.

Updated: Empty Frame Remover 1.1

fixsplash

Released in Christmas 2013, this handy script aimed at being the solution to ridding a document of any empty frames that weren’t required, whether they were empty text frames from stories that had been cut and pasted into InDesign, or empty graphic frames that were no longer required.

Since then, it has come to my attention that the script had two bugs: There was a minor bug that would show an error if there were no text boxes in the active document, and a major bug that would remove frames that despite having no fill/stroke etc, did contain a frame/frames within it (i.e. frames had been placed into another frame using the “paste into” command).

These bugs have now been removed and the latest version of the script can be downloaded here. In case it isn’t clear, don’t use the old script anymore – use the latest version!

Please note that the script is still in Beta version and that it is used at one’s own risk.

Feedback on the script would be appreciated. Full details on how the script was created along with contributors details can be found here.

Tracking Acrobat Revisions without miles of cursor moving

For anyone using an Acrobat markup workflow to take in client alterations, the following scenario may be familiar: Take in one client alteration, tick that it is done, scroll down to the next one, and take in that alteration… or perhaps tick that an alteration is done but not scroll down until all of the alterations that are visible have been done and then scroll down to the next set of untouched alterations.

trackalts1ccombined

For me, this falls into a category of “mildly annoying” when ticking off an alteration, then scrolling a fraction forward to put the next one to the top of the comments list. This escalates to “really annoying” when moving the cursor further to the bottom right of the screen to scroll down further, as instead of scrolling further down, the cursor will:

  • Invoke my Dock to pop up on my mac;
  • Invoke a “hot corner” action on my mac that is set to the bottom right of the screen;
  • Inadvertently open an email alert that pops up via Microsoft Outlook (alerts pop up on the bottom right of the screen).

I could always use the vertical slider to scroll only a fraction downwards, but as I near the end of the corrections, the vertical slider will still be closer to the bottom right hand of the screen.

trackalts1combined

I am unsure whether the comments list can be scrolled through vertically using the click-wheel on a mouse because I am using a stylus, but can say that the pan/scroll button on my stylus will not move vertically through the comments list.

The solution was inspired by an article from Matt Mayerchak and Kelly Vaughn that appeared in Issue 68 of InDesign Magazine titled “PDF Markup Demystified”. It is definitely worth a read if considering Acrobat markups as a workflow, or ways of improving an Acrobat workflow that may already be in use.

The first part of the solution was to do something that I did not think was possible in Adobe Acrobat – undock the comment list.

trackalts2

Doing this allows the list of comments list to appear as a panel that can start and finish at a custom size, and doesn’t limit the list to the bottom right of the screen. In this example, I have moved the comments closer to the left hand side of the artwork.

trackalts3b

The second part of the solution is eluded to in the article but not mentioned directly, and that is the ability to show only comments that are unchecked.

trackalts4 and 5b

It is worth noting that these checked/unchecked options are only available once one comment has been set from unchecked to checked.

trackalts5combined

Once this is done, the moment an alteration marked as checked, the alteration disappears and is replaced by the next unchecked alteration.

trackalts6combined

As a result of undocking the comment list and only showing unchecked alterations, it is now possible to see the current alterations being worked on without having so much cursor “travel time”. It might not seem like much, but for anyone using this workflow who may see 200-400 edits per PDF, that’s a lot of time that can be saved.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers

%d bloggers like this: