As a consultant and Quick Printing columnist, I daily receive emails and telephone calls from quick printers concerning the operations of their prepress department. This month I wanted to share some of the answers to common questions. Even though desktop publishing is more than 25 years old, many printers still face challenges.
Luckily, the updates and advancements in prepress are slowing down as printers attempt to get their arms around the computer power they have. In the coming year, the emphasis will be on automating PDF workflows and integrating Web-based services with the prepress department. Here are the answers to some of the common questions I receive.
Q: I have an Apple Mac G4 that is doing a good job, but getting long in the tooth. Is it time to upgrade my computer?
A: It is time. The new iMacs have the Intel processor that is required to run the latest versions of Adobe Creative Suite. The computers are economical and come with a large screen. The Mac Pro is overkill for most printers. Even if you are getting by with the older Mac, you’re losing productivity time in both computer speed and upgrade software advantages.
Q: I’m looking for a new computer for prepress and I’m trying to decide between a Mac and a PC. Does the Mac still have an advantage over PCs in prepress?
A: Both the Mac and the PC will work well in a prepress environment. The decision doesn’t depend as much on the actual platform as it does your fonts, software, and staff. Many printers have a big investment in fonts for a particular platform. To move from one platform to another may require purchasing new fonts. The software is also a consideration. While most printers run both Macs and PCs in prepress, one platform is usually the favorite and has all the supporting software. Before you change computer platforms, make sure you know what the costs will be to make the new platform your primary computer. You’ll also want to get input from your staff as to which platform they are more comfortable using. Some training may be required if you go from one platform to another.
Q: Should I upgrade my Adobe Creative Suite to the latest version?
A: This question is coming up a lot since Adobe ended its special Print Service Providers Program in February. The program offered Adobe software at a low yearly subscription price. Since Adobe ended the special discount for printers, any major upgrades will now cost printers money and Creative Suite 5 was released in April. Printers now have to go through retail channels to purchase Adobe software.
Many printers are finding CS4 still meets many of their needs since the jump to CS5 came only 18 months after the CS4 release. The pressure for printers will come when their customers begin to submit native CS5 files. Printers should be asking for PDF files rather than native files, so the version shouldn’t be an issue. For production, any printer doing a lot of Photoshop and Web design will want to upgrade to CS5. If you are working in CS4, you can get value out of the software for a few more months. If you are working in something older, bite the bullet and get the upgrade to CS5.
Q: Do I really need to have a font management program on my computer?
A: Font management remains one of the toughest things printers must deal with on the computer. You need to get something to organize the hundreds of fonts you have. Popular font management programs include Extensis Suitcase Fusion and Insider Software’s FontAgent. Both companies support both the Mac and PC. A popular Mac-only font management system is FontExplorer from Linotype. All of the companies have server systems and FontExplorer’s server system includes a Windows client. The companies all support plug-ins for the popular prepress software to automate font activation when a file is open.