Before you make a PDF file, Read: Preflight- a brief history

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Preflight, in the graphic arts sense, is the process used to check digital files before they go to plate, print or otherwise output. (For example, you can check PDF files before printing, or check online banners and gifs.) It is a way to check print quality before going to the printing press. Preflight is best done on the source document, such as those created in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, QuarkXPress or Corel!Draw as some examples, before becoming a PDF (Portable Document Format). Similar to a pilot who walks around and performs a preflight check before takeoff, preflighting for print quality control is a must for designers and prepress operators.

The term preflight was first used during a presentation in 1990 by Chuck Weger, a well-known print industry consultant. There were some early on postscript (rips) that interpreted data and provided a preflight report of sorts. However, the first true preflight application came from Markzware and was wisely called FlightCheck®, another term pilots use. Markzware is the maker of FlightCheck preflight solution, which can check digital content and PDF files for print quality before postflight. Preflighting is a very important step in PDF creation.

The importance of preflighting to check PDF files and more can be seen in the exhibit below:
Print Quality Triangle: Preflight to Save with Markzware FlightCheckEven before FlightCheck was on the market, Markzware applied for and was duly granted a preflight patent on the ‘Device and method for examining, verifying, correcting and approving electronic documents prior to printing, transmission or recording.’

Markzware started with QuarkXPress XTensions and became an independent software development company. A key decision was made for FlightCheck to become a stand-alone application including additional value. This pre press software could preflight file types, including Aldus PageMaker, Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator and others.

FlightCheck was released during the Seybold Conference at San Francisco in the fall of 1995. (It was ‘officially’ shipping in December of that year.) During those three days at Seybold, Markzware sold nearly 500 units! Fast-forward to 2008, Markzware continues to develop plug-ins and XTensions for preflighting and data conversion. Yet, FlightCheck remains the standard preflight application to check digital files, including PDF files. With an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, it can validate file formats for some 50 file types, including Adobe InDesign and PDF. FlightCheck is now more important than ever to tens of thousands of printing, publishing and creative professionals, worldwide.

Preflight is a process for preparing print files, before you send off to others or hit command-P (print). Postflight is the process that is administered on the resulting PDF file. Many loosely use the term “preflight” to cover both preflight and postflight. Other preflighting tools to check PDF files offer limited preflighting and pale in comparison to Markzware’s FlightCheck.

You can buy Markzware’s pre press software via the FlightCheck page. See more printing solutions on the Markzware Products page.

Before you make a PDF file, Read: Preflight- a brief history

Title: Before you make a PDF file, Read: Preflight- a brief history
Published on: May 15, 2008
David Dilling

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