PDF on different printers (WAS: quick question...)

Subject: PDF on different printers (WAS: quick question...)
From: Peter Gold <pgold -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 1997 13:09:11 -0700

Jill Burgchardt <jburgcha -at- pestilence -dot- itc -dot- nrcs -dot- usda -dot- gov> asked me to post
this reply she made to my query, because she's having mail problems:


Peter Gold wondered if anyone had had problems with pdf files on different
printers. I told him about our hassles, and he suggested I share the story.
Here it is:

We created several Word docs with a 600 dpi printer selected. When it came time
to send files to a printer, they requested .pdf files. Further, we were told
they needed to be prepared for a specific 300 dpi resolution printer. When we
installed that printer driver and viewed the Word docs, the callouts on several
graphics moved and pagination changed. This was serious, because our 244 page
manual has 188 graphics, most of which have numerous callouts. Changing the docs
close to release time was not an option.

We managed to use our 600 dpi setting and create pdf files that could print to
our printer at 300 dpi (using the driver the printer specified). It looked fine
to us. When the printer sent back a proof, the graphics were unacceptable. The
contrast was so strong that darks were too black and light screens disappeared.

We tried several alternatives. Sometimes the pdf would print very blurry,
sometimes too high contrast, sometimes text would move (when dpi changed).
Eventually, we used Paint Shop Pro to alter the graphics. It took an entire
night, but was the least painful alternative we had. Talking to the printer
before problems arose was not an option, because of the outsourcing process we
use. In fact, everything had to be discussed through a go-between which really
made it more difficult.

The sad thing is, we go through this every release because we don't know what
printer will get the contract until the manual is ready to be sent. Last year,
we had the opposite problem. The graphics had so little contrast that they all
appeared muddy. Next year, who knows?

Apparently, the printers could change some of the settings on their equipment,
but we sure can't control it from our site. And if they supposedly know their
jobs and struggle with it, can you imagine the problems some of our poor end
users have when they try to print the pdf files? That is, if they're among the
few who have postscript printers.

So, even pdf is not a cure-all for printer differences. Peter did share
some tips with me that can reduce some of the problems, for example,
setting compression to LZW or no compression and no downsampling. As it
happens, we use LZW and no downsampling, but still had problems.

Jill Burgchardt

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