Droplet like it’s hot

As a prepress operator, a great deal of my time is spent making sure that artwork supplied by clients will print without any prepress issues. Given that most client-supplied files are PDFs, a great deal of my time is spent in Adobe Acrobat checking the files using the print production tools and an invaluable plug-in called Enfocus Pitstop Professional.

While I’ve given the Adobe Acrobat team plenty of grief over my last few blog posts, I do have to sing their praises over a rather massive feature that – for me at least – has gone unnoticed since its inception in Acrobat 7 – preflight droplets.

What is a droplet?

A droplet acts as a “hot folder” that – once a PDF is dragged onto it –  will run a preflight profile on that PDF.

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This works for one or many PDFs. I first learned of this feature from this Jean-Claude Tremblay’s post to an InDesignSecrets article about using the preflight feature to convert a file to outlines, rather than using InDesign-based methods. That said, the droplets feature has been available since at least 2007!

Making a droplet is simple. While in the print production panel of Adobe Acrobat, click the preflight button, and in the new dialog box, select Create Droplet… from the Options button.

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The next dialog box will ask what preflight profile to use, where success/failed PDFs should be processed to, and if a summary PDF needs to be created of each file.

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Many of the built-in preflight profiles either force compliance to one of the PDF/X standards, or analyse a PDF and report the errors that were encountered. However, it is the custom fixup portion that may interest readers in a production role. To see where this can be found, click the Edit Profiles… selection from the Options button of the preflight dialog box.

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Underneath the warnings and standards compliance, there is a section titled custom fixups.

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In this panel is a plethora of changes that Acrobat can make to an entire document to fix common preflight issues such as:

  • Faux blacks
  • White overprint, or other colours that should knockout instead of overprint
  • Black instead of Registration
  • Remove trim marks and take back to 3mm bleed
  • Make pantone spot color names consistent

In addition, it is possible to make your own custom fixups rather than use the built-in ones. Click the add button to add your own fixup.

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It is also possible to drill down even further in the editing by clicking additional edit buttons.

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This allows for further variables to be made.

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Usually, many of these changes would be done using Enfocus Pitstop Professional’s action lists or global changes, but with the creation of an appropriate preflight droplet, not only can they be done without the Enfocus Pitstop Professional plug-in, they can also be done without opening the PDF.

Wouldn’t use it as a catch-all

It would be great to have one preflight that will catch all scenarios and fix the PDFs so that all that needs to be done is make sure the content is right and that the art is fit for its purpose… but because there are so many edge-cases that I deal with, it is more appropriate to make a “catch-most” preflight for common errors such as the ones mentioned earlier.

It can be confusing

With so many options to choose from, it can also be very confusing and – at times – frustrating, especially when some custom fixups contradict each other with no way of being able to sort out what one should go first.

Some of the commands are also not so intuitive. One instruction that I wanted to use – that was to make any object that wasn’t 100% black to knock out – wasn’t where I thought it would be.

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It took hours of trial and error to realise that the color range to select was Gray Object (black below 96%) is set to overprint… but who would know with the other options that appear to make more sense?

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It’s not a magic bullet

That’s not to imply that the Enfocus Pitstop Professional plug-in isn’t necessary – it is an absolute must for prepress operators. Preflight droplets complement the Enfocus plug-in, saving hours of time manually scanning a PDF looking for “the usual suspects” and allow PDFs in a workflow to be “normalised” for colour profile, trim/bleed size, appropriate overprints and knockouts as required, etc.

There are some fixups that work better using the Enfocus Pitstop plug-in, such as the generate bleed action. When run as a custom fixup via Acrobat preflight, it only adds bleeds to rendered art, and usually by scaling it. The Enfocus pitstop plug-in is more versatile in that it will apply to both vector and raster images, and bleed off appropriate edges only.

Importantly, the preflight fixups won’t be able to make content-related changes, such as fixing typographical errors or moving artwork away from a trim-edge… these changes have to be made with manual intervention using the Enfocus tools.

Lastly, preflight droplets are not a substitute for a skilled prepress operator examining a file, given that droplets cannot:

  • Ensure that artwork will fold correctly or be suitable for their intended purpose;
  • Confirm that the artwork is the correct version supplied by the client;
  • Understand the context of the content such as spelling, grammar or “design features”.
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Extract an Image from an image field in an Acrobat Form

In January 2017, Acrobat DC added two new buttons to the prepare form panel in Adobe Acrobat DC: Add Image and Add Date:

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The Add Image button creates a rectangle that – when clicked in Adobe Acrobat Pro or Reader DC – launches Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows) to navigate to an image to be inserted into that field.

To demonstrate this, I have created a business card order form in Adobe InDesign for a Travel Agency.

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Note that I have not made the image field in Adobe InDesign. There is a good reason for this: it isn’t possible at the time of writing the article as the option doesn’t exist in the buttons and forms panel in Adobe InDesign.

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While this is frustrating, it can be added in Adobe Acrobat. I’ll leave a link to the indesign uservoice feature request to hopefully have this (and the add date button) added in future (ignore that the Adobe Staff says its fixed at the time of writing – I disagree).

For now, I’ll export this file as an interactive PDF and add the add image button to the artwork.

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I can then close out of preview and look at the form. This should be fine for testing purposes.

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For the purposes of prototyping this form, I’ll type some dummy data and use a stock photo from Adobe Stock.

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Fields all look fine, the text can be extracted by either cutting and pasting into my InDesign card template, or using the export option from the Prepare Form tools. While the image isn’t juxtaposed correctly, I can do that once I extract the image from the PDF… or at least I thought.

The image won’t extract

If I go to the Edit PDF tools of Acrobat, the image (and its field) cannot be selected.

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The image isn’t shown as an attachment in the attachments tab.

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If I use the Export all as images from the Export PDF tab, will that work?

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No, it only exports the images of the beer bottles and the Eiffel Tower shown in the original card.

How about if I use the Edit Object tools, right click on the image and select “edit image”? Unfortunately, this is unavailable too.

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Using the Enfocus Pitstop Professional Plug-in, can I extract the image this way? No!

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Yes, I could zoom in and take a screen capture, or render the PDF in Adobe Photoshop, but neither will retrieve the image to the exact resolution the original image was supplied. Looking at this particular image, if I zoom in at 3200%, it is quite a high resolution image.

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At this point, I turned to the internet for help, only to find the following thread on the Adobe Forums that contained a response from an Adobe Staff Member that read as follows:

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To me, this is bizarre… the whole purpose of adding an image would be to remove it later for another purpose, especially since the form field doesn’t have any cropping, scaling or rotating options. The whole point of me making this form was so that:

  • the client didn’t need the full version of acrobat to add the image as an attachment to the PDF;
  • the client Didn’t need to send the PDF and the image separately;
  • I could receive one file to prepare the content of the business cards, rather than bits and pieces from various emails or downloads.

However, all is not lost!

There is a way

Create a new InDesign file and place the filled in interactive PDF as an image.

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Export the file as a print PDF using the [High Quality Print] setting with the following change to the compression panel:

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Now, when the PDF opens in Adobe Acrobat Professional DC, I’m able to use the Print Production Tools to click on the image and then select Edit Image.

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Once the image opens into Photoshop, I can see it is the same size as the original.

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So yes, it is possible to extract an image from the Image Field of a PDF, but it takes a little work. I’m just frustrated why the Acrobat Team made it difficult “by design”.

Lastly, if anyone from the Acrobat Team is reading this going “he’s having a go at us again”, rest assured, I will be praising the team in an upcoming post.

Preparing artwork for a Tête-Bêche book

On rare occasions, my employer will be tasked with printing a book that is really two titles in one, but both titles are bound together so that the first title will read correctly until the end of its content, and then the content of the second title is upside-down and in the wrong page order. This doesn’t make sense until the book is turned upside-down, and then the second title reads correctly. This style of binding two titles into one is known as Tête-Bêche (French for Head to Tail).

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If this still isn’t quite clear, have a look at some of the titles from the publisher Abe Books

While this isn’t a question that’s asked often, a post on the Adobe InDesign forums asked how to create such a book, so I thought I would write up an article of how I tend to prepare the text component of these publications.

Make two separate titles first

It is certainly possible to layout both titles in the same InDesign file using the rotate spread view, but I’d advise against doing this as not only is it generally confusing, the second title won’t be able to take advantage of automatic features such as page numbering, table of contents, indexes, etc

Instead, create the titles as either two separate InDesign files, or two separate InDesign Book files.

PDF only method

Create print-ready PDFs of both titles, and then decide what will become the first title and what will become the second title. Leave the PDF of the first title alone, but to the second title, do the following:

  • Rotate all pages 180°;

01 rotatepages

  • Reverse the page order*.

02 reversepgorder

*Rotating the pages is easy enough in Acrobat, but reversing the page order will call for a technique that has been outlined in an earlier article.

This will result in the first title right-reading in the correct page order, and the second title upside-down in reverse order. From here:

  • Use the Combine Files into a Single PDF… option and join the two files together;

03 combinefiles

or

  • With the first title open, open the pages panel and drag the second title from Finder (Mac) or Explorer (Windows) to the end of the last page.

04 dragdrop

InDesign method

The advantage with this method is that it will work with either a PDF of each title, or an InDesign file of each title, provided that each title is its own InDesign file. If InDesign book files were used, then PDFs need to be made for this method.

Another advantage is that if late changes need to be made, the alterations can be made to the original InDesign title, and then updated in the “conjoined” title automatically.

This method requires the multipageplace script. Make a new non-facing pages document that will be the same trim size as the titles – the document is only being used as a “conjoined” title to put the pages in the correct orientation and order, so facing pages isn’t required. Run the script and import the first title. When the script’s dialog box appears, enter the following options then click OK:

05 importone

Once the script has run, add a blank page to the end of the document.

06 add a page

Run the script again, selecting the second title. This time, enter the following options into the dialog box that appears:

07 importtwo

In this example, the script is starting at page 13 as the previously placed file finished at page 12. Obviously this needs to be changed depending how long the original title is.

Note that this dialog instructs the pages to rotate 180° and to reverse the page order.

08 tada

This will now place the pages in the correct order for Tête-Bêche binding.

Confirmation of page sequence

To confirm that the pages in the conjoined file will now read correctly, make a PDF of the conjoined file and repeat the first two steps used in the PDF method (rotate 180° and reverse page order) – this will show the PDF of the second title’s reading order, and that the first title is now upside-down and in reverse.

The cover

This file will be prepared like any other book, with the exception that the Outside Back Cover (OBC) will now become the Outside Front Cover (OFC) of the second title. Rule to remembering the head directions of the outside covers is that – for a western audience with binding to the left – the head directions should be anticlockwise to the page.

09 headirections

 

 

Reacting to bad Redacting

In early January 2019, a high profile case of “Redaction Fail” made the headlines when it was revealed that the redacted material could still be read if copied and pasted into a word processor. My initial reaction was of concern, because my first thought was that the redaction feature in Adobe Acrobat had a serious drawback. However, this was soon put to rest once I viewed the actual document in question, and realised that Acrobat’s redaction feature had not been used, but another low-tech method was used instead.

Low-tech method 1: Highlight

In Microsoft Word, it’s easy to change the highlighter colour to black to act as a redaction. Similarly, Adobe InDesign has a similar feature where an underline can be created that is the same colour as the text and adjusting the height of the line to the top of the ascender to the bottom of the descender.

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Looks great on screen, and looks great on a PDF.

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Be assured though that this is NOT REDACTED. I know this because I can reveal what was written in several ways:

  • By highlighting the text and copying into any text editor;

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  • By using an accessibility feature that will allow the line (or page) to be read back

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  • In Acrobat Professional, using the Edit feature to change the colour of the type

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  • Editing the PDF with the Enfocus Pitstop plug-in in a similar fashion to the last method, or even remove the redaction itself or view the type under the redaction using the wireframe view.

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  • By highlighting the text, opening the tags panel and selecting Find Tag from Selection

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  • By highlighting the text, opening the content panel and looking up the content by its page location

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  • Via the print production tools in Acrobat Professional, go to the output preview and in the Show portion of the dialog box, select Text from the dropdown

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(The above method can be circumvented if the redaction character style has a type fill of [None] and the underline coloured [Black]).

To be fair, no security settings had been applied to this test file. If I apply password security so that copying, pasting and accessibility is off, the last three methods can still be employed to see this text, albeit with many options greyed out:

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Low-tech method 2: Redact Font

Fonts (such as the redacted font by David Walsh) give the type a redacted look without the need to create a highlighter-style effect.

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Again, rest assured that this document is NOT REDACTED.

Park the fact that the copy has now reflowed after the style has been applied, many of the previous methods can still be employed to read this text.

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Yes, there is also the drastic action of employing this technique, adding security AND converting all text to outlines using a method described over at InDesignSecrets, but doing so will make a PDF that is:

  • Unsearchable and unprintable;
  • Has no accessibility features;
  • Involves manipulating the original artwork, rather than a file that has to have redactions applied.

If you need to redact the file, use Adobe Acrobat’s Redact feature, and make sure to read the instructions to be sure that is being used properly.

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The instructions on the Adobe Acrobat help site for using this feature are quite useful.

A related redaction warning

If photographs also need to be redacted, note that if unredacted versions of the images exist online, chances are that Google’s Image search or Tineye may be able to find the unredacted originals.

Take the following image that was used on this site two articles ago. I’ve done a basic redaction our faces and run the redacted image through exifpurge to remove any metadata.

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If I drag and drop this image into Google’s image search, it is able to find the unredacted versions of this photo that are currently online:

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While this example was a light-hearted example, much more serious examples can be found via ABC Australia’s Media Watch programme.

 

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