With JDF, Print Jobs Come With Instructions

Adobe and Quark say the electronic job ticketing technology is important and helpful, but publishers are slow to adopt.

While the Job Definition Format may send the hearts of commercial printers, press and postpress machine manufacturers aflutter, most publishers dont know, dont use and dont care about JDF—at all.

But should they?

"We strongly believe that people in the industry need to learn about JDF and how it can help them," Glen Turpin, director of communications for Quark Inc., e-mailed.

Commonly referred to as an electronic job ticket, JDF is a standard data interchange method that promises to reduce communication errors and further automate commercial printing processes. Basically, JDF describes the specs of a print job. Its not something a publisher goes out and buys, but they may start bumping into this JDF thing pretty soon.

In theory, publishers will never actually see the machinations of JDF but instead benefit from it by using electronic job tickets. Instead of e-mailing or writing down print job specifications in pen on an envelope or stapling a form to a folder, software that supports JDF allows publishers to enter (or receive) instructions about a print job such as page size and paper stock.

The printer receives this file, reviews the contents and may add additional info (like specific paper stock information). More information may be added to the job ticket by employees and by machines that can read a JDF job ticket, act upon it, and add additional information to the file automatically (such as when the job was completed). When the print job is done, employees in the mail room or loading dock know where to send the finished piece by reading the job ticket.

The ramifications of keeping job information digitized havent been truly explored. Publishers may benefit from having better preflight checks. Printers can collect data to check quality control as well as audit workflow. Because jobs can be tracked, that information could be made available on the Web so that customers could check on the exact status of their print job.

Support for JDF is starting to appear in desktop publishing applications including the latest Adobe Systems Inc. Creative Suite products and in the next version of QuarkXPress. According to Adobe literature, JDF "is the print communication industrys most highly anticipated standard since Adobe PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF)."

Saving time and money and avoiding costly errors are perhaps the main motivations for using and exploring JDF. Simple communication errors cost publishers and printers time and money every day.

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